A Shallow Dive into the 2020 New Zealand Warriors
It’s probably not worth considering what I thought of the Warriors pre-season (it was that they would be bad). The coronavirus pandemic threw everything into disarray and no club bore more of the brunt than the Warriors.
The change from a regular home and away season to a permanent road trip could have gone one of two ways: either the Warriors would mentally collapse or the pressure would bind them together. Fortunately for them, it was the latter under the temporary leadership of Todd Payten, finishing tenth with a 8-12 record. Payten replaced Stephen Kearney at the helm, after Kearney was surprisingly let go in the middle of a extremely challenging season that would have been a write-off before the pandemic.
I don’t know how much reliable information can be gleaned from such an unusual year for one specific club. One thing I am interested in is measuring the differences in performances under Kearney (rounds 1 through 6) and Payten (rounds 7 to 20) to see if it was worth punting him.
(Here is a brief guide to some of the stats used)
Given what we saw from Kearney in 2020 was largely in line with what we had previously seen (2018’s annus mirabilis run to eighth place aside), the Warriors are probably vindicated in their decision to replace him with Payten. However, that’s a decision that came with an unbearable amount of risk attached to it. The metrics haven’t turned around a lot, although the winning percentage was somewhat better and most of the players seemed to step up. Management perhaps should consider themselves lucky that they got away with it.
Funnily enough, Payten didn’t feel like sticking around, even though the job was reportedly his for the taking. He opted to go to Townsville and coach the Cowboys for family reasons. Personally, I can understand not wanting to work for an organisation that punts their coach while he’s embedded with the team in another country for no-one-knows-how-long during a pandemic. Whether Payten is legit head coaching material will be tested under more normal circumstances in 2021.
It’s quite the triumvirate of talented leadership that the Warriors have assembled to take them into 2021.
Consultant, Phil Gould:
Coach, Nathan Brown:
CEO, Cameron George:
We’re about to see what happens when sports talkback callers run a NRL club.