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Why Warriors refused to wait on Kearney's future

Stephen Kearney's axing as Warriors coach on a sunny Saturday afternoon caught plenty off guard given the good will around the club this season.

Their move to the Central Coast with no end date in sight has helped keep the competition going, but not Kearney's tenure.

He was given his marching orders by CEO Cameron George in the morning, terminating his three-year contract just six months into it.

Given the COVID-19 costs that are hitting right across the game, the hefty payout that comes with Kearney's sacking has raised eyebrows.

So too the Warriors' well-worn habit of moving coaches on, with Kearney now the 10th clipboard carrier at the club in 25 years.

In following an unwanted tradition at the club, new Warriors sole owner Mark Robinson has driven through a seismic move to break a culture of mediocrity at the Kiwi franchise.

Kearney was warned publicly by Robinson in October that he "will have an issue" if results this season went the same way as last.

Why the Warriors moved on Stephen Kearney

The coach's position became far less secure when Robinson and business partner Rob Croot took full control of the club late last year, Robinson in particular determined to shake-up the underperforming franchise.

Privately, conversations around his position have been had for the best part of nine months.

The timing, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and with the team stuck on the Central Coast indefinitely, doesn't sit well with many.

But as George said on Saturday, "none of this pops up overnight".

"We have had a challenging year on and off the field, but that's off the back of a challenging year last year as well," George said.

"It's a compounding effect."

George was a key figure in the decision to extend Kearney last year, backing him wholeheartedly to keep momentum going from a 2018 finals run.

Had Kearney seen out the deal, he would've become the longest-serving coach in Warriors history.

Instead that decision has backfired expensively, but management is arguing Kearney has already had four seasons to show where he was taking the club.

"You go into these decisions absolutely confident that they're the best ones you can make at the time," George said of Kearney's contract extension.

"You never make a bad decision at the time do you?

"Hindsight will always educate you on those and in this situation, I've never doubted that that was the right decision at the time.

"Stephen's been with us for four years, and that's an extensive period in anyone's world.

"But the fact of the matter is that this is a decision for us to get better going forward and we believe it's the right decision to make, regardless of timeframes and the like."

In something of a rarity in the modern game, Kearney didn't misplace his dressing room before being shown the door.

He still enjoyed the support of his playing group, and you will struggle to find a bad word whispered about Stephen Kearney the man.

The Warriors camp was emotion-charged on Saturday afternoon when he delivered the news, his players sending him off with an impromptu haka.

The decision to send him packing from the club's hierarchy was anything but.

Whether it truly shocks the club out of its mire, or we look back with little surprise at another Warriors coach sacking, remains to be seen.

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