Stephen Kearney has spent all season trying to shield his Warriors from outside noise, delivering a clichéd one match at a time, preparation for this week is our only focus message so regularly that even the coach himself admits he’s become a "broken record".
It was more of the same on Tuesday as the Warriors ratcheted up their preparation for Saturday night’s elimination final against Penrith in Sydney - except for one very rowdy distraction. Make that two portable speakers pumping tunes at near full-bore.
The Warriors started training to the beat of rock music and then went into a simulation game with a crowd noise recording blaring away, hoping to replicate the disturbances anticipated at ANZ Stadium in what will be their first finals appearance in seven seasons.
"That can be a distraction on game day and it’s just mimicking that," Kearney explained before acknowledging returning five-eighth Blake Green has instigated the unusual training ground practice.
"And it was, it was a distraction for myself. I’m pretty sure it was for the players so they’ll get an awareness of possibly what it could be like on Saturday. That’s where communication and coordination become important, that’s the idea behind it."
Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (ankle), who like veteran back-rower Simon Mannering (sternum) sat out training but is expected to play against the Panthers, has previously raised communication as a key to a prolonged finals tilt for the Warriors.
2018 NRL Finals Series
RTS said their "humble" players needed to speak up under the pump. For "humble", read quiet, often a culturally ingrained case of showing respect to a more senior player.
Kearney is confident the Warriors have stepped up in that area.
"The leaders of the group have done a really good job with that. Everyone’s buying into the process. I’ve seen it grow and it’s really important it’s at its best on Saturday," he said.
Second-rower Tohu Harris also gave a thumbs up to Tuesday’s training ground simulation.
"We had a few instances today where we found we had to be a lot clearer with our communication. That’s going to be how it is in the game," said the 26-year-old who has tasted grand final heartache and ecstasy with the Storm in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Other than the noise, Kearney is emphasising another cliché – the K.I.S.S method – for his squad which is light on finals experience with Mannering and halfback Shaun Johnson the only survivors from the last Warriors team to play in the finals when the Auckland club reached the final in 2011.
"Simple is better," said Kearney who has finals experience as a player and assistant to Craig Bellamy at Melbourne.
"The over-riding thing is the simple things done better always gives yourself an opportunity. There’ll be moments in the game and it’ll be about executing those moments well. That’s what doing the simple parts better is all about.
"With that, the important part is preparation. You give yourself the best opportunity by preparing well and that’s what we’ll be aiming to do."
Kearney was back singing from a familiar script. But how about the extra pressure of playing with your season on the line?
"It’s no different to how we prepare every week. The focus is on executing our job regardless of the situation that we find ourselves in. We’ve had a pretty good rehearsal of that over the last couple of weeks."
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