The old adage “less haste, more speed” should apply to the decision of the NRL Warriors top brass to appoint Nathan Brown as head coach on a three-year deal starting from 2021.
Describing Stephen Kearney’s harsh sacking in June “like a death in the family,” interim coach Todd Payton admitted the Warriors were “not tough enough for long enough”.
That has changed dramatically in the last five games when they’ve won four of five games, the only loss being a brave one, 12-18 to NRL premier leaders, the Penrith Panthers.
Wins include 26-20 West Tigers, 26-22 Manly Sea Eagles, 20-14 Canterbury Bulldogs and last Saturday, best of all, a 36-6 walloping of the Newcastle Knights.
The bloke who has turned the Warriors around from a bunch of losers into a gutsy team whose defence has tightened and their attack sharpened, is interim coach Payton. This despite losing several homesick players who returned home to New Zealand to be with their families.
Among those were champion wings Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu’a.
Nor did it help that they sacked experienced halfback Craig Green, probably the worst decision they’ve made since getting rid of the sometimes brilliant, sometimes brittle Sean Johnson who didn’t always back his attacking genius by kicking too deep too much.
Interestingly, however, the new halves combination of Chanel Harris-Tavita and Kodi Nikorima is starting to gel nicely behind a hard-working pack of forwards who are not scared of hard graft.
Harris-Tavita had a blinder against the Knights, as did fullback and skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck who scored a splendid double.
On loan players have also done their bit with Jack Hetherington, who missed the Newcastle game because of suspension, a tough, strong-running prop who takes no prisoners. He’s one player definitely worth signing for 2021.
Wings George Jennings and Adam Pompey have also been good value who have profited from some smart offloads from centre Peter Hiku.
Meanwhile the players would love to reward coach Peyton with a strong finish by making the top eight playoffs.
The Warriors’ management did a smart thing by adding former Origin coach Phil Gould to their ranks as a director. A straight talker who pulls no punches, Gould’s experience should be invaluable in lifting the club’s performance next year.
Meanwhile the recent retirement of captain Laura Langman from international netball following that of Casey Kopua and Maria Folau after last year’s World Cup means the Silver Ferns have lost their three Old Fossils.
But what wonderful memories they have left behind.
All three are netballing greats with the lively Langman a positive never-say-die leader.
As champion centres go, she may not have had the natural athleticism of Sandra Edge but she compensated with her dedication, fitness and enthusiasm.
Replacing her as captain is popular Pulse goal shoot Ameliaranne Ekenasio whose accuracy at the World Cup was on par with that of the brilliant Folau.
With goal attack Maddy Gordon being promoted to the Ferns, competition between her, Gina Crampton, Shannon Saunders Claire Kersten and Kimiora Poi for midfield berths will be keen.
With Bailey Mes and Te Paea Selby-Rickit retained as shooters along with Ekenasio and Maia Wilson, outstanding youngsters Aliyah Dunn and Grace Nweke have made the development squad.
- Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author