Coaching was in the blood for Nathan Brown.
The 47-year-old, who takes over at the Warriors next season, is the son of a notoriously tough New South Wales bush footballer who was a very successful coach at two small town clubs.
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Brown says that through this, he was always interested in becoming a coach.
And an NRL first grade coach he became, at lightening speed, after the St George Illawarra hooker's 172-game career was ended by a neck injury at just 27. By 29, he was in charge of a Dragons side stacked with his former teammates.
After a one-club playing career, Brown and his wife Tanya have come to treasure life on the coaching road.
His coaching journey has involved a 150-game run at the Dragons, stints with English clubs Huddersfield - the birthplace of rugby league - and St Helens where he won a title, a rocky few years back in the NRL with the underpowered Newcastle Knights, and now the Warriors.
Brown has already had a taste of life with the Warriors, working as a specialist assistant under former coach Stephen Kearney.
Turning the Warriors into a permanent NRL force is a task which as proved beyond every one of their many coaches so far. And Brown faces an extra hurdle, with the club unsure if it will be based in Auckland or Brisbane next year because of Covid-19.
Nathan Brown chats to the Herald from Sydney.
You've got plenty of time to school up on the current Warriors…
In this occupation you always make time but not working with a club fulltime at the moment does make it easier to get my head around things. The most difficult thing is dealing with Covid, not knowing if the borders will be open, and if we can travel between New Zealand and Australia.
The Warriors have become a reliable and winning outfit under Todd Payten…is it changing your view of next year?
Not really. I always felt Steve Kearney had in place a group of blokes who were keen, and willing to listen and work. That's to Steve's credit. The staff and this playing group have certainly done some good things.
And (wing) Adam Pompey is a positive example of what can happen when a player gets given a chance. He's starting to reward his coaches, not only through scoring tries but with other parts of his game developing.
Will you come to Auckland with your family?
Yes…we've got four children and a dog now as well.
We've got daughters aged 17, 15 and 12, and a son aged nine. We've done plenty of travelling and it can be disruptive in some ways for the kids. But you get great life experience and new friendships, things you would never get living in the same town, the same street, the same house.
We're looking forward to moving to Auckland if we can - it is a beautiful city. The travel is something we really enjoy.
You started first grade coaching so young…
Yes, and that can be a disadvantage. But it also means I've experienced a lot of different things already at the age of 47, so I see it as a bit of a bonus. I feel I'm coming into the best years of my coaching.
Current staff such as defence coach Justin Morgan seem to be doing a great job under Todd Payten…are you looking at making big staff changes?
Some coaches like to come in and get rid of everyone, bring in their own people, but I think you've got to be mindful of people who are already doing a good job. If people are doing good work and achieving stuff, I don't see the point of changing them. But there are always one or two people you have worked with over the journey who do things you like. So it's a case of getting the balance right.
We're still working through stuff and Covid has had an effect on all sporting organisations across the world…rugby league has cut the budget for staff.
There are some issues which could affect your squad next year, including reports that Roger Tuivasa-Sheck might go to rugby union if the Warriors are forced to set up camp in Australia again.
In terms of Roger and other players, time will tell as to what options we have, in relation to whether we are based in Auckland or Australia. But I would certainly love to coach Roger.
Who were your childhood heroes?
A guy called Tom Carroll, who was a world champion surfer. I used to surf but when I hurt my neck playing footy I had to give surfing away. I loved surfing and still love going to the beach.
In rugby league, my hero was Peter Sterling…and anyone who played for Cronulla. I was a mad Cronulla fan. St George and Cronulla didn't like each other at all. And my soft spot ended up being with the Dragons where I spent most of my career.
Is there anything you would love to change in rugby league?
It's already come in…the new rules allow the smaller player to have an opportunity to attack. The thing I didn't like was that the smaller bloke was getting picked on by these big blokes without the opportunity to pick back.
I've would also like to see an 18th man on the bench able to replace someone who couldn't keep playing because of foul play…especially because of the seriousness of the head knock and the laws around it. This only seems fair but it hasn't got off the ground, so maybe I'm the only one who thinks it would be fair.
You were on the smaller side as a player…does it give you a special empathy for the little players?
Players like Peter Sterling, smaller players who were smart, were the ones who made the game so great to watch all those years ago.
What were your best and worst moments as a player?
Just playing week to week was exciting, but playing in the finals and grand finals is unreal. The worst moments are losing grand finals. Unfortunately I lost three of them but the road to them, the friendships you build on the way, the excitement of playing in front of big crowds, are still highs.
What's the best advice you ever received?
I've got a lot over the years. When I was a kid, my dad told me to listen to everyone, even the town drunk. You never know what you might learn. Once you get good at listening, it's then about what filters through…listening is great, but knowing what to take in is another thing.
If you weren't a professional sportsperson…
I'm not sure what I would have done. The old man was a painter, so I would probably have ended up doing that. Fishing was the big thing at home, and I always loved fishing…but probably a painter.
What's your dream for the Warriors?
Every coach's dream is to win the ultimate prize. That's why we do what we do.
What's the magic formula?
There's no magic wand but everyone at the club is working very hard on it.
The Warriors' most successful years under Daniel Anderson and Ivan Cleary involved a lot of good local players coming through their system, with some good Aussie recruits sprinkled in. That seems to be what works for the Warriors.
Recruitment is not as easy as everyone thinks it is. You can have the best plan in place and don't land the target, while sometimes you can have a bit of luck and they fall out of the tree into your lap. You might even need some luck in developing your own players. Sometimes there are factors way out of your control.
But we've certainly got a good plan in place. We know what style of player and type of people we want. We'll keep working hard and see if we can make some things happen.