Challenging season on and off the field for Warriors' coach.
A nightmare season on and off the field has ended positively for Warriors coach Stephen Kearney with his wife, Piri, successfully overcoming a near year-long battle with cancer.
The 45-year-old was appointed Warriors head coach 12 months ago, but just weeks into his new role and only days before Christmas, his family's world was turned upside down when test results confirmed Piri had developed breast cancer.
Thankfully, the illness was detected early, and in February she began an intensive regimen of radiotherapy.
A relieved Kearney confirmed to the Herald on Sunday that Piri is now in remission, while she continues to work through her recovery after suffering a tremendous physical, mental and emotional toll.
Her ordeal was made even more difficult by the fact she had to cope on her own for long periods, with the family having made the decision for Piri to remain in Brisbane with their two daughters, Samantha and Isabella, who are nearing the end of high school and in their early years of university respectively.
Kearney has been living in Auckland on his own since joining the Warriors last October.
"In Piri's situation, she's been facing it by herself back in Brisbane, so that's made it even more challenging," Kearney told Newstalk ZB's Tony Veitch.
"You've just got to try and work your way through it and try and make the best of a not-so good situation."
Few people outside of the Warriors' inner sanctum were aware of what the family was going through, during what has been a tremendously challenging first season for him at the helm of the struggling NRL club.
As often as he could, when time and work commitments allowed, Kearney made regular trips through January and February across the Tasman to support Piri and be with his loved ones.
Once the Warriors' NRL campaign was under way those visits became less frequent and Kearney's time with his family was limited to brief stay-overs before or after away matches, bye rounds, and the competition break during the weekend of the Anzac test between Australia and New Zealand in early May.
"It wasn't easy but it's one of those things, you've just got to find a way. I'm not saying it was plain sailing or rosy," he said.
"There were challenging times, there's no doubt, and there will be challenging times ahead too.
"We've just got to keep working our way through it but it's not easy."
Having confided in those closest to the family in Brisbane, word quickly filtered down to Melbourne, and the Kearneys soon had the added support of friends from his days as a player and member of the coaching staff at the Storm, and the wider rugby league community.
He was determined to shield his family from scrutiny, with the couple highly sensitive to the fact there were thousands of other families going through similarly traumatic circumstances. But he does feel overwhelmingly grateful that Piri is in remission.
Piri's situation also came to light just a few months before Kearney's former Storm premiership winning teammate Brett Kimmorley lost his wife, Sharnie, in March, after an eight-month battle with brain cancer.
And as much as Kearney wanted his family's personal business to remain private, he also didn't want it offered up as an excuse for the Warriors' poor on-field performances during his early tenure.
Even once Piri was in the clear, Kearney was reluctant to discuss the matter publicly, as he poured all of his energy into trying to turn the side's flailing season around.
Those close to him are unsurprised by that but marvel at his unwavering commitment to his job, and his refusal to back away from the challenges in both his personal and professional life.
The arrival of the off-season will allow the family to be together over the next six weeks before pre-season training begins in November.