Ask Phil Gould what the ultimate success will look like for the Warriors and his answer is simple.
The former Penrith, Roosters and New South Wales coach, club administrator and high-profile league media personality was hired as a Warriors consultant last October, framed as another step in the quest to maximise the potential of the Auckland club.
It's a broad brush role, with a wide mandate, which involves working with many stakeholders, including the New Zealand Rugby League and Auckland Rugby League.
But Gould's primary aim is to help strengthen the foundations, to transform the Warriors into consistent contenders.
The 62-year-old isn't short of theories, mantras and knowledge, from a lifetime in the sport, but it boils down to a single factor; the Warriors need to evolve into a team dominated by home grown talent.
"It's absolutely essential, over a period of time" says Gould. "That would be my view, that would be my recommendation. It's essential that happens.
"I don't know the real history of the Warriors as to where that is at…but that's the way for long-term success, that's a way for identity, that's the way for culture."
It's far from a new idea, but Gould's view – and influence behind the scenes - adds weight at a critical juncture.
For much of the last decade the club often looked outside for solutions, from Sam Tomkins to Ryan Hoffman to Blake Green to Adam Blair. Most high profile current players are 'imports' – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Tohu Harris, Addin Fonua-Blake and Kodi Nikorima – while Reece Walsh was an unpolished gem snaffled from the Broncos.
But it hasn't always been that way. The highpoint for local products was the 2011 season, when the club reached the grand final across all three grades, the culmination of years of work by former coach Ivan Cleary and his lieutenants.
A third of the current team are Australian and among the established first graders, only four (Bunty Afoa, David Fusitu'a, Chanel Harris-Tavita and Jazz Tevaga) have come through the grades.
But there are some promising signs, with the investment in youth (Adam Pompey, Rocco Berry, Eliesa Katoa, Edward Kosi et al) and Nathan Brown's willingness to give youngsters early opportunities.
Gould's priorities are two-fold; work with stakeholders to improve the standards and structures of the sport locally, then ensure that more talent ends up funnelled towards the Warriors.
"There is no doubt there is a pool of talent here," says Gould. "But if there's not the opportunity or perceived pathway at the Warriors there are other pathways and opportunities at 15 other clubs.
"Around 27 per cent of the current NRL players come from New Zealand. So, why didn't [more of them] come through the Warriors? That's what we need to answer.
"To sell rugby league in this country, the Warriors need to be successful, and they need to be reflective of the demographic here. The Warriors will be at their best when the vast majority of their roster is home developed."
Attracting more of the best local talent is a complex issue, one the club have been wrestling with for years. There's no easy answer, but Gould is determined to help with the solution.
Gould made his name as a young coach at Penrith, taking the club to two grand finals (1990 and 1991) before five seasons at the Roosters and two successful stints with New South Wales.
His most recent role was general manager of the Panthers (2011-2019). Not everything went smoothly (Cleary was sacked in 2015, before being brought back in 2018) but Gould was a driving force behind the transformation of the club off the field.
The environment is very different in Sydney, especially with the junior development pathways, but Gould says it's possible to transplant ideas.
"The things that are important to building a club and the process that you go through are well documented and well proven," says Gould. "The issue for me is learning more about the Warriors and the situation here in New Zealand and seeing what's possible and how best they can do it.
"But there are basics around forming a club, developing talent and forming an identity for the logo on your jersey. When people see your jersey, what do they feel, what do they believe, what do they expect? What does it mean to be Rooster or a Panther or a Bronco? And what does it mean to be a Warrior, what sets us apart?"
Despite the modern day cult of the coach, Gould says a club should have an ethos that is seamless and consistent, regardless of who is in the hot seat.
"Clubs are often the victim of changing - every time they change the head coach they change the culture," says Gould. "Coaches manage the personnel, develop the talent and win football games, but the club culture; how the club develops and recruits and builds relationships…that should never change."
Gould says "chemistry" wins premierships ("the right players at the right stage of their career in the right environment") while culture is the foundation.
So, where to start? Gould has a long list. Priorities are getting more Warriors development teams and improving the base in New Zealand. As an example, he played a role in persuading the NRL to increase the NRZL's funding, which facilitated the new national Under-20 competition.
"It's a long race," says Gould. "It's a journey. But the Warriors should be a source of inspiration and aspiration for young kids in this country, [who] want to play the game at a high level and be part of this club."
Twice a week Gould's alarm clock goes off at 4am.
He leaves his home in the south of Sydney soon afterwards, hitting the highway for the drive north to Tuggerah, arriving at the Warriors' training base around 7:30am.
Gould might sit in on the team meetings or video sessions, then catch up with staff, before taking in the training run.
"I'm just there to lend a hand," says Gould. "I'm not doing anything, just being a part of the club, because I can't do the other job that I was actually asked to do because of Covid.
"I go to the games if I haven't got a Channel Nine commitment, go to the corporate box or whatever, just trying to help. In the small way that I can just be a part of the club, until such times as we can get around to doing the job that I've been asked to do."
Gould, who made his first grade debut in 1976 and played for the Panthers, Newtown Jets, Bulldogs and Rabbitohs, is a league tragic. He watches every NRL game, every weekend and would often spend from "midnight to dawn" studying VHS tapes in his coaching heyday.
His life – as a pundit and analyst – still revolves around the game, though nothing replaces being on the grass.
"I've always missed coaching," says Gould. "It was part of me for a long time. But, you know, I miss playing, more than I miss coaching. That's why we all got into this game because we love playing it. We get too old to play it and we think we can coach it. Eventually, we can't even do that so we find something else to do."