Disgruntled New Zealand Warriors players may want to head home following coach Stephen Kearney’s shock dismissal.
That is the stark warning from caretaker boss Todd Payten, who made the admission after Kearney’s departure in the wake of Friday’s loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
It was a fourth defeat in six NRL games this season for the Warriors, costing Kearney the job he had held since 2017.
And Payten revealed the extent to which it had impacted on a squad having to isolate in Australia amid coronavirus travel restrictions, describing it as being “like we’ve had a death in the family”.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) June 20, 2020
“Some may [want to return home],” he said on Sunday. “Yesterday it was an emotionally charged day.
“Stephen’s very well respected and loved by the players. I don’t know how they feel from an anger situation. It hit them pretty hard in the face.
“I really feel for Steve. I know the playing group are rattled and are still processing at the moment.
“It was eerie, it’s been a difficult and strange 24 hours. It’s almost like we’ve had a death in the family. It’s a really strange atmosphere.”
In an outburst that seemingly captures the mood inside the Warriors camp, former forward Sione Faumuina tore into the club’s hierarchy.
“It’s the most selfish, lacks-empathy decision I’ve ever seen within any franchise in the NRL,” Faumuina said. “If I was playing and that happened … I’d want to come home now. I’d be like, ‘F this, send me home’.”
However, CEO Cameron George felt the club was justified in taking the decision.
“Going into this year, obviously we understood we needed to see improvement. Then obviously we take into account what’s happened with the COVID-19 and the unfortunate situation our team are in at the present,” George told The Sunday Footy Show.
“But from the owner’s perspective, we looked at the core principles of what we do, and we make decisions as to what’s best for our future, what’s best for our club moving forward.”