Warriors owner Mark Robinson says coach Stephen Kearney has "responded really well" to the NRL challenges laid at his feet.
Kearney is under more pressure than at any other time during his tenure at the Auckland-based club.
The run to end the 2017 campaign was tough, with nine consecutive defeats (equalling an unwanted club record), but there was an understanding it was his first season and he was shaping the roster.
Last season was well below par — albeit there were some close losses — but Kearney had some grace after the historic 2018 finals appearance.
But there won't be much leeway this year, as Robinson made clear soon after gaining sole control of the club last September.
"Next year has to be his year," Robinson told the Herald then. "If it's not, it's not, and it's probably time to move on.
"He has been under the pump, he [inherited] a team when he first turned up, and has had three years to change those players around. Like anyone else in a business, he's on notice.
"He needs to make the top eight next year, otherwise we will have to have a sit-down."
Catching up with Robinson for the first time since then, the owner has been impressed with Kearney's work across the pre-season.
"I think he has responded really well," said Robinson. "We had a talk about the roster and everything [recently] and he was pretty up-front about it. He said 'I'm here to coach the team'. Of course he would like a few more players but he is just focusing on his job, which is to get the best out of the players he has.
"He has been working really hard on that and I am really happy with his progress. And when people are offering help, he is looking at it and saying that will help."
Part of that assistance has come in the form of former Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown, who has been hired as a technical adviser.
Brown has a lot of NRL coaching experience (245 games), with mixed success, but Robinson, like chief executive Cameron George last month, affirms he is not waiting in the wings should Kearney stumble.
"We thought he might be sniffing around, but it wasn't that at all," said Robinson.
"He was looking for a bit of work and he thought he could help us around the halves and at hooker. He has done a good job and it has made [assistant coach] Stacey Jones better ... made him look at things completely differently."
The Warriors have been quiet on the recruitment front — mainly because they have only one vacant spot on their list — but Robinson says their time will come, probably around the middle of this year.
"We have got money sitting there for a big prop if [they] turn up," said Robinson. "We are trying to pick which ones are going to go and stay in the next few months, and who is coming off contract.
"We probably don't need anyone for a while in the backs, but the forward pack, we need to strengthen up a bit, we all know that. And we have 12 players coming off contract, so they will need to fight, [as] they won't all be signed."
Wandering through the Warriors headquarters at Mt Smart, it's not hard to see the impact of the new owners.
In September, Robinson made it clear the environment needed to be changed, literally and metaphorically. Although the second is more intangible, he has ticked off the first.
The club's reception and offices have been refurbished, with new furniture and a cleaner, sleeker look, while the appearance of the players' areas have been transformed.
Gone is the large black mural that covered an entire wall of the gymnasium, while the dressing rooms, which used to be adorned with the names of every former Warrior (and photos of the prominent ones), is now bright and clutter-free.
"We'll have a board up for the players that were part of the club, but the way I look at it, they were great players, but the teams didn't win the title," said Robinson.
"We can congratulate those people in other ways, not have them plastered all over the walls."
There's also a lot more natural light everywhere, a tip picked up on a recent fact-finding trip to some American sporting franchises.
"If you go into a dull locker room and train, you don't train at your best, with all your senses," said Robinson. "Everywhere you go in the USA is like being outside, a brighter environment rather than darker."
There's new gym equipment and other innovations, such as a new water filtration system in the dressing room that Robinson says will enable players to hydrate more effectively.
They are all little touches, that may or may not provide a difference, but are part of a bigger picture.
"I wanted to show people that I do give a s**t about the conditions they train in and their facilities," explained Robinson. "It's part of changing the culture. Whereas before the owners were just yelling and screaming at people and taking all the money and not putting it back.
"If you get the culture right and they want to play for the club, and they know that the owner and the people in the club do care about what they are doing [and] they have the best environment, that is starting on the track of the changing the culture."
Robinson has noticed a difference among the squad.
"No one has seen them so happy, as they have been," said Robinson. "I probably wouldn't have seen a closer group at the Warriors in the last 10 years."
And whatever unfolds this season, Robinson has high hopes for the long term.
"Once we start being consistent [on the field], and we have a really good culture and the word gets out there about the culture and what is going on with the club, everything will change," said Robinson. "You will get a few [Australian players] saying 'we are going over to help those guys'."