Reports surfaced on Thursday night that the New Zealand Warriors were on the verge of announcing Nathan Brown as their new coach, and if it’s true, they couldn’t have picked a better person for the unique set of circumstances facing the club.
The Warriors have long been the NRL’s most frustrating club, of that there is almost no doubt.
This is a club who have often had the talent to contend for a top-four spot, let alone a top-eight spot, but without a run through Origin, there have been seasons where they looked closer to the wooden spoon than they did challenging to play finals footy.
Fans of the club have had every right to feel aggravated by the decision-making at board level, the inconsistent performance of their players, and the way they have been coached.
However, even that has somewhat gone out the back window in 2020. They simply don’t have the talent in their roster. The club then got rid of Stephen Kearney who had actually been going better than expected in their Central Coast exile, and announced a number of players, including the now-departed Blake Green, wouldn’t be needed next year.
It was a somewhat odd decision, and while the Warriors keep pulling off the very occasional win to upset tipsters and punters everywhere, they need to start building for the future, and Nathan Brown is the perfect man for the job.
This goes against the popular opinion, with social media blowing up to question the likely appointment of the former Knights and Dragons coach to the club, but turning the Warriors around isn’t going to be a one or two-season effort. It’s not likely to be a one-coach effort, and in terms of long-term planning, they couldn’t have made a better decision than to take Brown.
You see, while everyone will point at the Knights this year and what they have been able to do since signing Adam O’Brien, none of it would have been possible without the building blocks which have been put in place by Brown.
While Brown will never be the best coach in the game, or the man to get the absolute best out of his players, he is the guy to build the club roster, and build a culture. It’s what he did in Newcastle, and he simply won’t get the credit for it, given what O’Brien has been able to do with the same side this year.
But the Knights, like the Warriors, were never going to be a short-term thing. It was a side made up of younger players, who needed to spend time learning the ropes of first grade rugby league.
They did that under Brown, and while the leadership of the experienced coach grew stale long-term with the club’s young roster, Newcastle played it perfectly in terms of timing to let Brown go and bring in O’Brien.
The Warriors should be looking to do a similar thing moving forward. It will be a different task in Auckland, given getting young players from other clubs to move their whole life overseas isn’t quite as easy as asking them to relocate to Newcastle, but Brown has an eye for young talent.
That much is evident, given the faith he showed in players like the Saifiti brothers and Kurt Mann, or even the signing of Jayden Brailey from the Sharks.
If he can spend time building the Warriors roster, getting rid of the deadwood at the club and using the New Zealand scouting system to ensure they end up with the best talent progressing through the junior ranks of the club, then it could bring about a long-term, successful change for the Warriors, whether it be Brown, or another club to actually carry out the success part of it.
Critics will point at Brown’s coaching record, but when you consider the job he did in Newcastle, the Warriors are in almost the same position as to what they need over the next three years.
Fans must be patient with Brown and the rebuild that is about to take place, but the Warriors have the potential to be a strong club, and the NRL as a competition will be better for it.
Brown’s reported appointment could make all the difference.