Stephen Kearney was cast aside.
Stephen Kearney was cast aside.

Classless NRL act is a ‘disgrace’

Rugby league fans have united in their support of Stephen Kearney - and their outrage at the Warriors - after the coach of the New Zealand-based NRL side was sacked yesterday.

The club made the brutal decision despite the team having relocated indefinitely to Gosford because of coronavirus-enforced travel restrictions.

The call comes after the side's dismal 40-12 loss on Friday night to South Sydney, leaving it with two wins from its opening six games.

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Given the extraordinary conditions imposed on the Warriors because of COVID-19, many footy fans believe Kearney deserved more leeway.

Kiwi sportscaster and commentator Jason Pine called the decision "heartless and cold".

"I know sport is a results business but 2020 isn't normal in any sense and needs adjusted thinking," he tweeted. "They've sacked a coach in a bubble. Not particularly classy for mine."

Fox Sports commentator Warren Smith also took exception to the classless axing, while former Sharks and Panthers prop Martin Lang was also furious.

"'Utmost respect for Stephen Kearney'? Given he's moved away from his family and in to isolation for the past 8 weeks … 'utmost respect' isn't likely. What a disgrace," Lang wrote on Twitter.

Former All Blacks player and coach Sir John Kirwan was another who was dismayed by the decision to axe Kearney.



The Daily Telegraph reports the Warriors will need to pay Kearney out to the tune of $2 million because he was contracted for another two years.

The playing group was addressed on Saturday afternoon, with assistant coach Todd Payten taking over immediately as caretaker.

Kearney's tenure ends after three-end-a-half years in charge, and comes six months into a three-year extension he had signed in February, 2019. The Warriors won 33 of 79 games in that time, making just one finals appearance, with chief executive Cameron George insisting it wasn't an overnight decision.

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

"It's a compounding effect that we, being myself, the CEO, need to make decisions in the best interests of the club moving forward."

George also defended the timing of the decision, seven weeks after players and staff left families behind to move temporarily to Australia. It is still unclear when the team can return home.

"It's very difficult for that reason alone … Yes, man to man, the respect I have for Stephen, I would've appreciated more so being in person with him," George said.

"But under the circumstances that are not ideal for so many people, particularly our club at the moment, it was the only option that we could, to talk about it."



Originally published as Classless NRL act is a 'disgrace'

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