Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has signed on the dotted line. Picture: Getty Images
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has signed on the dotted line. Picture: Getty Images

Warriors secure Kearney with three-year contract extension

DESPITE signing a three-year contract extension as the Warriors' coach, Stephen Kearney is focused on the short term.

The deal announced on Tuesday should keep Kearney in charge at Mt Smart until the end of the 2022 campaign, at which point his tenure would equal the club record six-year stint of Ivan Cleary from 2006-11.

Kearney is in the final season of his initial three-year deal.

He oversaw considerable improvement last year, when the Warriors finished eighth to end a finals drought that dated back to Cleary's final season in charge.

The 46-year-old Kearney reacted in typically composed fashion to the extension, saying there was plenty more to achieved and he would tackle it with the same short-steps approach as last year.

"We made progress last season but, to be honest, the focus for me is always what's next for us and that's preparing for this week's trial against Wests Tigers in Whangarei," he said.

Warriors chief executive Cameron George said a desire for solidity was central to their pursuit of Kearney's signature.

George said going through 11 head coaches in the space of 24 years was unhealthy for any organisation and described Kearney as a uniting figure who had the full respect of players and management.

"We haven't enjoyed a lot of stability as an organisation, especially in the coaching area," George said.

"Without stability in our football department it's extremely challenging to improve and to achieve continuity.

"It's vital to have the right people in the right roles and in Stephen we have someone who absolutely fits what we need.

"He's very professional, he has a very good relationship with his staff and players and has hands-on experience as a premiership-winning player, a Test player and a coach who has all the attributes need."

Kearney lined up in the second row of the Warriors' augural 1995 playing roster before he left for Melbourne four years later.

His NRL coaching career includes assistant roles at the Storm and Brisbane, under Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett respectively.

Those stints sandwiched an ill-fated two-year coaching reign at Parramatta in 2011 and 2012.

This season's opening match at home to Canterbury will be Kearney's 50th as coach of the Warriors.