While many will remember 2020 for the dumpster fire of a year that it has been, Todd Payten will likely look back on it shrouded in nostalgia's rosy tint.
Someone who had aspirations to be a head coach in the NRL, Payten got his chance midway through the season when he was promoted from assistant to interim head coach of the Warriors following Stephen Kearney's departure.
At the time, the Warriors had a 2-4 record, a points differential of –59 and the team were still settling in to life away from home. It was the perfect opportunity for someone looking to show what he was capable at the helm.
After a 50-6 thrashing at the hands of the Melbourne Storm in his first game in charge, Payten questioned the effort of his team. The team's record since that game is still a losing one (5-7), but doesn't tell the full story.
Over the past couple of months, the Warriors have been among the toughest teams in the competition, testing the upper echelon and fighting their way into the playoff picture – albeit missing out with a couple of rounds to play.
During the campaign, Payten received plenty of praise for what he achieved with the team and landed the permanent role as North Queensland Cowboys head coach for 2021.
Speaking after the Warriors penultimate game of the season on Sunday, a 26-14 loss to the Canberra Raiders, Payten showed plenty of emotion as he paid tribute to the Warriors.
"The perception around our club for a long time has been they don't have any fight or spirit. I questioned their commitment after my first game in charge and the messaging has been consistent from that day forward around making people proud of what we're doing, not just being another number," Payten said.
"It's not just me, the players have got to buy into it. I'm really proud of this group of men; they've changed my life and I owe them a whole debt of gratitude. I'll always be grateful for the opportunity they've given me and my family moving forward."
The Warriors, who have been in Australia since May, have one game left of the season before they are able to return home. As has been the case for much of the season, their team for the match will be depleted with captain and star fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck the latest to join the casualty ward due to a hamstring injury.
Tuivasa-Sheck's story has been one of the more remarkable ones of the 2020 season. While some players' families were able to join them in Australia and others returned home to be with theirs, Tuivasa-Sheck has toughed it out, relying on technology to be able to see with his partner, Ashley Walker, and their two young children.
Despite being unavailable for the Warriors' final game of the season, Tuivasa-Sheck will remain in Australia with the team as he will get home faster on their chartered flight back to New Zealand than he would trying to find a commercial flight.
"I'd like to put him on a plane but it's just not going to happen," Payten said.
"I know he's counting down the days."
While Payten's time with the team will come to an end at the season's conclusion, he had challenged the team to not fall back into old patterns despite having nothing on the line in Sunday's match against the Manly Sea Eagles.
"If we don't show the same effort we've shown for the past 10 weeks, we'll get some people saying it's the same old Warriors," Payten said.
"I want us to enjoy the last eight days we have with each other. It makes it a whole much easier to turn up to training when we're enjoying it. From a coaching standpoint, we'll be mindful of that.
"We're going to be down on troops – I don't know who's going to play – but we'll just get through it."