New Zealand Warriors 2017 Season in Review
There is a large gap between where the New Zealand Warriors are and where they should be and coach Stephen Kearney insists his big name off-season signings will play a huge role in bridging it.
Premiership winners Tohu Harris, Adam Blair and Gerard Beale will be on board in 2018, as will former Manly Sea Eagles five-eighth Blake Green. Peta Hiku, formerly in the NRL, has also been snared from Warrington.
Kearney has bought players he believes can lift the Warriors out of a malaise that has kept them out of the finals for the past six years.
"One of the key elements after talking to blokes like Adam, Greeny and Tohu is that they have a real desire and hunger to come here and help the club move forward," Kearney said.
"It all started with Tohu before Christmas [of 2016] and it was about targeting guys I thought could bring quality to the playing group and who would kick us forward.
"Statistically we reached certain levels last season where you could give us a tick, but it didn't win us footy games.
"The truth about that is that we got in decent position against sides like the Cowboys up there, Melbourne in Melbourne and against Manly twice.
"But we didn't play that style of football for long enough. We are in our infancy in that sense, so the likes of Adam, Greeny, Tohu, Peta and Bealey are going to accelerate that."
The Warriors' inability to win close games and their habit of falling away in the latter stages of seasons – such as 2017 where they lost their last nine - is a trend Kearney knows must be reversed.
"After coming here there was obviously a gap between where we were and where we need to go to make the club what we all think the club should be," he said.
"I am not just talking about the people on the inside. That is everyone. The reality is there is a gap and my responsibility is to make sure we start closing that gap.
"The people we have brought in are going to assist in helping us try to do that."
Kearney said Blair was just the man for that job on several fronts.
"Adam brings certain elements to his game on the field that we all know about but he is real value away from the field," Kearney said.
"What I do know about Adam is that he makes people around him better.
"He sets a standard and an expectation for himself and helps people reach out further than what they are capable of.
"That is from a diet point of view and the way he prepares himself to play football.
"Winners are never satisfied. Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk are always trying to make themselves better and to achieve. Adam is no different."
Kearney has brought on board Alex Corvo as head conditioner. He worked with him at the Melbourne Storm and the Brisbane Broncos, and Corvo will ensure there is stringent attention to detail in the training sphere.
"The players we have spoken about, combined with the way Alex goes about his business, will be a great enhancer to the group as well," Kearney said.
"I am really excited about the way the guys have attacked the pre-season so far."