Kiwi rugby league legend Sir Graham Lowe has offered a scathing assessment of the New Zealand Warriors' 2021 season, while labelling behaviour in their final game as "gutless" and "cowardly".
The Warriors were thrashed 44-0 by the Gold Coast Titans on Sunday — an embarrassing end to what started as a promising season. But if that wasn't enough, chaotic scenes in the second half saw three players — Jazz Tevaga, Matt Lodge and Kane Evans — sin-binned within one minute of each other.
Warriors head coach Nathan Brown and CEO Cameron George were quick to apologise on behalf of the team, assuring the behaviour would be addressed.
But speaking to Newstalk ZB on Tuesday, Lowe said more drastic changes needed to be made.
"You've always got to start at the top. Somebody's got to say 'follow me', someone has got to say 'here's the plan'," Lowe, a former coach and administrator said.
The Warriors finished the regular season in 12th place on the NRL ladder, recording only eight victories from their 24 games.
"I think Nathan is in the centre of a storm that he's not created himself and I think he needs to clear those around him right out and start with a new group of support people including assistant [and] including recruitment … something needs to change or nothing will.
"To finish the year where they ended up wasn't good enough, and then to top it off with a gutless performance like that, I think it was quite cowardly," Lowe said.
Of the three players involved, Lodge has received arguably the most criticism after having already been suspended three times this year — twice as a Warrior.
The controversial prop has also been hit with a fine for making offensive gestures to the crowd after being sin-binned on Sunday.
Lowe expressed his disapproval, calling Lodge's mid-season signing from the Broncos "one of the most idiotic" he's seen at the Warriors.
"There's a lot of very proud, knowledgeable rugby league people in this country and they know there are players within this country that would eat that bloke who was at the centre of that altercation, and they'd do it for the pride of the country, the club and what the game stands for.
"That bloke is being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars and he hasn't turned up. He's a failure... and he showed what a coward he was as well."
The Warriors are set to address the players individually this week before the team goes on leave.
The team's base for next season is yet to be determined, but Lowe said as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, they needed to move on and focus on results.
"It's been difficult and a lot to manage … but they've made the decision, they're there now and they should've moved on from that difficult position," he said.
"It's been time to move on and crack the whip and get the football in order."