Sliding doors moment: seemingly inconsequential moments that nonetheless alter the trajectory of future events.
In my opinion, TWL’s Will Evans was bang on the money in his description of what could have been for the Warriors on Friday night. Midway through the first half against Souths and the game was still very much in the balance.
Fast forward 24 hours, and the Warriors had been dealt a 40-12 thumping by the Rabbitohs and head coach Stephen Kearney’s tenure had come to an abrupt end. Whether these two things were aligned, we don’t quite know yet. But logic would suggest this can’t have been an overnight decision.
“There’s never a right time. Where do you draw the line?” Warriors CEO Cameron George remarked on making the decision to cut ties with Kearney.
Granted, the Warriors have had their backs to the wall for some time now, and it was hard to see what direction the club was heading in under Kearney. But to be axed whilst in isolation, in another country after committing to leave friends and family behind for an unknown period of time does lend some sympathy to Kearney the way in which he was discarded.
Going off last Friday night’s second-half capitulation against the Rabbitohs, there is still an enormous job awaiting whoever takes on the vacant head-coaching role. For now, rookie assistant Todd Payten will be in charge.
Head to Head
36 – This was the 36th instalment of this rivalry, dating back to 1995.
17 – This was the Warriors 17th loss against the Rabbitohs in the club’s history.
1 – The Warriors have won just one of their past 11 games against the Rabbitohs.
2 – The Rabbitohs’ 40 points is the second-highest score they have run up against the Warriors in the history of this fixture, narrowly missing the 41 points they scored in 2016.
12 – This is the twelfth straight game against the Rabbitohs that the Warriors have conceded 20 points or more.
9 – The Warriors have now conceded 20 or more points in nine of their last 10 games. The only occasion they didn’t was when they held the Dragons scoreless in Round 3 of this year.
41 – The Warriors missed 41 tackles in the game, the most they have missed in a game since the resumption of the NRL.
100 – Of the starting forwards, only in-form veterans Tohu Harris and Adam Blair managed to cross the 100-metre barrier. Eliesa Katoa and Jamayne Taunoa-Brown were both kept in check by the Rabbitohs’ defence.
150 – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Gerard Beale were both kept busy bringing the ball back from their own end; unfortunately not enough of their 150-plus metres gains were on attack.
150 – Friday was his worst game numbers-wise since the resumption of the NRL, but Tohu Harris has run for over 150 metres and made 40+ tackles in every one of his past four games.
418 – Blake Green’s kicking metres have increased in 2020, out of defensive necessity more than anything. He currently sits second for the most metres kicked in the NRL. He is kicking for over 120 metres more per match than his previous season best of 284 metres per match in 2019.
61 – In scoring his 61st try for the club, David Fusitu’a moved into outright fifth place in the overall tryscoring charts for the Warriors, overtaking Francis Meli.
ROUND SIX PREVIEW: WARRIORS v STORM
Just over 12 months after re-signing Kearney to an extended three-year deal and Cameron George claiming “Stephen is a big part of our future” his future with the Warriors is no more.
Sadly for Kearney he will miss the opportunity of going up against his former club where he was both a player and assistant coach one more time.
Taking away a father figure of sorts from such a young and inexperienced squad will no doubt have an effect. It is a big call in the best of times, so moving forward, what should we expect at the worst of times ?
Laying in wait this week is the ruthless Melbourne Storm, who are the Warriors’ second-toughest opponent away from home, statistically speaking.
With the game being moved from Melbourne to New South Wales it decreases the Warriors’ travel burden dramatically – but their overall record in Sydney of late isn’t great.
Head to Head
45 – This will be the 45th instalment of the Warriors v Storm rivalry, equalling the highest number of games the Warriors have played against any other current NRL team – despite the Storm coming into the competition three years after the Warriors. They recently played the Panthers for the 45th time also.
16 – The Warriors have won 16 games in the history of this battle. But history will show that things have definitely gone in favour of the Storm in recent times.
5 – And that record dissipates even further when you look at the away games in this fixture, with the Warriors winning just five of 21 encounters.
1 – The Warriors have won just one of their past 10 games against the Storm, a 28-14 win in 2015.
14 – The Warriors average just 14 points per game against the Storm, away from home.
20 – The Warriors have conceded 20 or more points on seven of their past 10 occasions against the Storm.
3 – The Warriors have won just three of their last 11 games in Australia.
8 – The Warriors have not featured in the NRL Top8 since Round 2 of the 2019 season. The Storm on the other hand have only slipped out of the Top 8 once since the 2015 season.
12 – The Warriors’ tryscoring numbers have been in question for the majority of 2020, however they their 12 tries scored is only three less than the Storm.
1 – The Warriors have won just one of their previous five games at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium (formerly Jubilee Oval and Kogarah Oval). A 30-20 victory in 2003 was their last victory at the ground, having not played there since 2017.
6 – Stephen Kearney finishes his career with the Warriors as the sixth most successful coach in the club’s history, in terms of winning percentage – 41%.
3 – It was also the third-longest coaching tenure in the club’s history. He leaves with a record of 33 wins, 45 losses and 1 draw from his 79 games in charge.
35 – Kearney’s overall NRL coaching record now stands at just a 35% winning percentage – the lowest out of any other current NRL coach, who has coached more than 30 NRL games. The Bulldogs’ Dean Pay sits fractionally above him by .03%.
3 – History is against Todd Payten, when you see that Kearney, Tony Kemp and Mark Graham are the only Warriors coaches to win their first game in charge out of the 11 men who have taken the helm for the club.
2 – David Fusitu’a has scored doubles in both of his last two games against the Storm in Australia, whilst his wing partner Ken Maumalo scored in both of his games against the Storm in 2019.
1 – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has won just one of his last nine NRL games against the Storm. Adam Blair has won just one of his last 10 against them.
0 – Sadly, Kodi Nikorima has never beaten the Storm in eight attempts throughout his NRL career. Agnatius Paasi has endured seven losses from seven attempts versus Melbourne and Ken Maumalo six from six.
88 – The Warriors’ listed front-row boasts just 88 NRL games’ worth of experience, compared to the Storm’s 733.
100 – David Fusitu’a has been named to play in his 100th NRL game for the Warriors, becoming just the 24th player to reach the milestone for the club.
50 – Blake Green, Peta Hiku and Agnatius Paasi have all been named to make their 50th NRL appearance for the Warriors.
49 – Skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck needs just one more try to bring up 50 in his NRL career. If he does not score this weekend, it will be his longest drought to start a season in terms of games played – previously not scoring in six games in his debut season, 2012.
Did you Know
12 – The Warriors have now used more coaches than any other current NRL side since coming into the competition in 1995. Todd Payten will become coach number 12, pushing the Warriors one ahead of the South Sydney Rabbitohs who have used 11 coaches in the same time period.
*Note, the Tigers have used eight since their inception in 2000, the Titans seven since they joined in 2007. The Storm came in three years after the Warriors and have had just three first-grade coaches.