You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content

Star Warriors back-rower Tohu Harris says the players are responsible for the "undeserved" sacking of coach Stephen Kearney.

Harris was the first player to front the media on Monday since Kearney's abrupt axing by Warriors management on Saturday, with the New Zealand Test regular still lost for words at times regarding the coach's surprising exit.

He described Kearney as "the one person that was holding this team together" after the Auckland-based club relocated indefinitely to the NSW Central Coast to keep playing in 2020.

Harris said he "certainly won't judge anyone" if teammates wanted to return home, as interim replacement Todd Payten had flagged given the impact of Kearney's abrupt departure.

"It's been a huge shock and we're still pretty upset by the news," Harris said.

"I'm feeling for Mooks and his family now. I feel personally that it wasn't deserved, especially with the players and how we feel that we let him down."

'Like a death in the family': Warriors players react to Kearney exit

Kearney's dismissal came after last Friday's heavy 40-12 loss to South Sydney.

However CEO Cameron George has stressed the decision was based on poor results over the past 12 months and Kearney's four seasons at the club for a 42% winning record, not just the efforts since the NRL resumed late last month.

Like many Warriors players, Harris shares a strong bond with the popular coach, whose sudden exit from their NRL bubble has left players and staff "scrambling".

"I think the majority of the squad has taken it particularly hard," Harris said. "The majority of the squad are here because of Mooks.

Why the Warriors moved on Stephen Kearney

"For me personally, he's the one who gave me my first Test jersey. I've known him since early 2013.

"If he wasn't in Auckland, me and my family, we don't come here … In this situation, he's the one person that was holding this team together. We're still in shock and left scrambling.

"As players, because we feel responsible for the result, it feels very harsh.

"A lot of us have watched the game back and we saw how many opportunities we had that we didn't finish ... To have the decision made after the result we felt responsible for, we feel it's really harsh.

"But there's a lot of stuff we don't know about and there's guys that have to make those decisions and we just have to do our job."

George and club hierarchy will begin an extensive search for a full-time replacement from Monday, having already had "a dozen people contact [George] around the role already".

In announcing Kearney's sacking, George said players were not consulted for their views on the coach's performance to avoid undermining their mentor.

Harris was diplomatic when quizzed on this, suggesting management may have held fire on terminating Kearney's contract if players had been able to brief them on just how critical his influence had been during their seven weeks in isolation.

"Players understand that we are still employees," he said.

"I understand that they don't need to speak to me on decisions. It would be nice, because we're in this situation, we'd be able to give them more information before they make certain decisions but again that's not normal process.

"It's a hard decision to process because they're making those decisions outside of the bubble and we're in here.

Match Highlights: Rabbitohs v Warriors

"I feel like we could give them more current information of what it's actually like being here.

"Mooks has been the one that's holding the group together, getting us up every single week and the other coaches have been coaching while he's been managing everyone, because there's so many things going on and so many different things out of our control.

"Now that we've lost that person that's doing that, we've got to scramble."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

Premier Partner

Media Partners

Major Partners

View All Partners