It is easy to draw a sketch of the Warriors as a doomed project.
With uncertainty over ownership, a home ground with all the charm of an abattoir, a playing list short of star power and one of the worst coaches, statistically speaking, in NRL history, the popular Warriors picture is this: the not-so-lovable losers.
The Warriors have often promised baptismal rebirths - "keep the faith" their tired old mantra – but drowned under the weight of expectation instead.
Hope has been a thin gruel.
Wasn't it always thus?
Twenty-one years ago a callow sports reporter stood at the back of Mt Smart Stadium and tried to tease some thoughts out of Stephen Kearney as to why the Warriors had failed to meet expectations in the first three years of their existence.
Kearney, the player, had a reputation as being a bit, well, joyless. He had been involved in a well-documented stand-off with the club about signing a new contract and, amid accusations of greed; made it clear that he wasn't sure whether the club's desire for success matched his own.
His was an intimidating presence, but an honest one.
"The reason you play the game is for a bit of success and two or three months ago it certainly didn't look as if it was coming our way.
"After you've been beaten 30-0, money doesn't give you much comfort does it? It's about… getting some silverware here."
Now, not much more than a nine-iron from where that conversation took place, the same sports writer is reacquainting himself with the same man, trying to tease a few more thoughts.
The timing is opportune. The Warriors didn't just win their opening match of the season, but looked good, reborn perhaps, while doing so.
There are still big question marks about future ownership - long-term owner Eric Watson has been looking at selling the club since last year and a Tongan-American NFL consortium headed by Hawaii politician Richard Fale arrived in Auckland this week to negotiate - but even with a tiny sample size, the playing side looks surprisingly robust.
As he was during the Warriors period of instability in the late 90s, Kearney is in the middle of it.
There's grey at the temples beneath his team issue cap, the shoulders are slightly more stooped and there's a lightness to him that was absent all those years ago – but you can still picture Kearney taking a few hit-ups if the situation required.
"The club is in a similar situation, I'd have to say, and that's been brought about by the inconsistencies of the past five or six years," Kearney says.
"The reason I left at the end of 98 is the same reason that's pulled me back," he says, citing the desire to end the inconsistency, to build something of value.
Inconsistency, he says, can "absolutely" be as habitual as winning and losing. He knows if they go out this afternoon and lose to Gold Coast in their home opener, there will be people saying what a Warriors thing to do that is.
"But those same people probably thought we'd lose in Perth, too," he says, a conspiratorial grin suddenly creasing his face.
That's about as close to bragging as you'll get with Kearney. He is a serious league man. The 32-20 opening weekend win was uplifting, but his feet are planted.
"We're just two points off the bottom of the table," he says, as a way of showing just how fickle fortune in the NRL, or perhaps specifically the Warriors, can be.
Talking yourself up after one win, even if it meant breaking an eight-game losing streak going back to June 23 last year, even if it came in a week when it was reported that Kearney's 25.8 per cent rate was better than just three other head coaches with more than 50 games under their belt, would be the ultimate loser ploy.
"That's the thing about building a culture," Kearney says. "You have to get people to understand what winning is, and part of that is bringing people in who know what that is."
Last season, he said, even in the games they were losing they were staying in the match for long periods of time before instinct kicked in and they faded.
Part of it was mindset, he says, part of it was physical conditioning, part of it was a game plan that didn't ask enough of the opposition defence.
To mitigate the first point, he brought in tough-minded guys like Tohu Harris, Peta Hiku, Adam Blair and Australian Blake Green. To fix the second, he turned to Broncos strength-and-conditioning maestro Alex Corvo.
The third part, the part that gets those of us in the bleachers excited? Well you only had to look to Perth on Saturday night to see a side that looked less scared to make a mistake; a side who liked scoring points more than they enjoyed completing sets of six.
"I have no doubt there will be games in the not-too-distant future where we will have to make an adjustment to a game style that is tighter," Kearney says.
Kearney is 45. Physically, he looks fantastic. He has a young man's nickname, Mooks, but there's something about him that seems so much older than his years. He's spent a life in league, growing up with Rugby League Week posters of his heroes – Kiwis legend Mark Graham, and Souths props Les Davidson and Ian Roberts plastering the bedroom walls of his home in Waikanae.
He progressed rapidly from the Kapiti Bears to the Upper Hutt Tigers under-19s to the Randwick Kingfishers. By the time he was 19 he was lacing them up with some teak-tough men at Western Suburbs Magpies, one of the foundation clubs of the NRL (who later merged with the Balmain Tigers).
Former Kiwis and Warriors coach Frank Endacott once described him as the kid at the front of the class always asking questions of the teacher. He meant it literally: whenever Endacott ran a clinic, Kearney would literally sit at the front with his notebook and ask question after question of him.
By 21 he was captaining his country.
His playing career was rarely anything but star-spangled and he ended it with a Challenge Cup victory with Hull in 2005 and eventual induction into the New Zealand Legends of League.
Coaching has been more complicated.
He has served club apprenticeships under maestros Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett and that has, to be frank, been a blessing and a curse.
Even the warm glow of Kearney's landmark achievement – guiding the Kiwis to an improbable World cup victory against Australia at Brisbane nearly 10 years ago – came with a caveat. He had Wayne Bennett at his side and it was the seven-time NRL Premiership-winning coach who many, perhaps understandably, credited as the central plank of that success.
Despite Kearney guiding the Kiwis to Four Nations success, that belief has only gained momentum with his struggles in the NRL. The ill-fated stint with Parramatta happened in front of the unrealistically expectant fan base in the game and included an extraordinary amount of losses decided by four points or less.
A similar pattern has evolved at the Warriors. There are genuine concerns as to whether Kearney can tip sides over the line and although he's still young by coaching standards, it's not a stretch to say his future head coaching prospects could take a massive hit if he doesn't lift the Warriors out of the mire of mediocrity.
Perhaps that's why this man, who is steeped in league and everything it stands for, can give the impression he doesn't actually enjoy coaching.
The suggestion elicits a deep laugh, which is in itself something to behold, before he blames some of his taciturn mannerisms on the guys he worked under. Bellamy was not known as "Bellyache" without cause and "Wayne never gave too much away".
"I do love coaching. If I didn't I wouldn't have left the family in Brisbane," he says, referencing his wife Piri and daughters Samantha and Isabella. The move was made doubly difficult after Piri's breast cancer diagnosis just days before Christmas 2016.
Kearney says it is a constant worry, "but she is tracking along well, everything is positive", before returning to the original premise.
"Why I don't show it… well I do inside, but the joy is not so much the jumping up and down after a try but seeing men grow. Winning is obviously part of it but seeing boys grow into good, young men is a big part of it."
This is something his captain, dynamic fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck notes. Like Kearney two decades ago, Tuivasa-Sheck thought long and hard before recommitting himself to the Warriors. In the end, he liked what his coach was saying and the things he was doing.
"I was similar to him. I want to play on the big stage and I want to be a winner. I'm seeing small glimpses of that in the way the club is going. A lot of that's down to him [Kearney].
"He's a tough man, he can be really tough at times, but he has genuine care for his players," Tuivasa-Sheck says.
"He always talks about us not just being good footballers, but being good people as well. Part of that is the way you prepare yourself, turning up with the right attitude, turning up on time."
The fullback gave a broad hint that it might not always have been that way, saying he felt it made a big difference on Saturday knowing that the guy beside you on the field had prepared as well as you had.
Being tough, being largely implacable, doesn't mean there is not a fun side to Kearney. He still hero-worships his league idols, even if RLW no longer publishes and his mum has taken the posters down and painted his bedroom walls now.
"We had Mark Graham's son Luke out here about a month ago," he says of the filmmaker.
One of his favourite moments of the pre-season was when Roberts came in to do some role-playing with the squad. Roberts, a brutal tackling prop and league's first openly gay player, is now an actor in Sydney and the NRL hires him and others to address the clubs through a series of interactive skits that focus on issues like attitudes toward women, drink-driving and gambling.
"I don't know what the guys thought of it but I loved it," Kearney says of the opportunity to catch up with Roberts again.
If it feels like everything about Kearney is geared to league, you're pretty much right. It's been his obsession since his teens.
What would he do without the game, I wonder?
"I had plenty of dreams when I was a youngster. I'm looking at chefs nowadays and I love cooking so I'm thinking that – not one of those TV chefs, the real thing.
"I'm not giving myself a rap here but I think I'm good at cooking most things," he says, laughing again.
"I did a building apprenticeship when I was a young fella," but he's not sure he could be trusted to build someone else's house.
Yet that's what he's essentially trying to do here: rebuild the House of Warriors.
Bit by bit; from the ground up.