Warriors' house in order despite changing faces

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:00 04/06/2014
Eric Watson
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax NZ
WARRIORS CO-OWNER: Eric Watson.

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Having a CEO resign just six weeks after sacking a coach would usually sent out signals that a club's in crisis, but that couldn't be further from the truth at the New Zealand Warriors.

The Auckland-based NRL franchise announced yesterday that Wayne Scurrah would stand down as CEO at the end of the year and be replaced by the NRL's chief operating officer Jim Doyle, who was previously the top man at New Zealand Rugby League.

Coming hot on the heels of Andrew McFadden replacing Matt Elliott as head coach, there are significant changes going on at the Warriors, but co-owner Eric Watson feels the club is far from being in disarray.

"In the last nine years we have moved so far," Watson told Fairfax Media yesterday. 

"We're in an incredibly strong financial shape, business is working well, sponsorship levels are outstanding, we have three teams we fully control under the Warriors banner, back then we had one.

"He's moving on at a time when the club is in great shape and that's a fantastic thing for a sports CEO to be able to."

The Warriors have won four of their last five games and under the guidance of McFadden they are playing consistently well for the first time since Ivan Cleary quit for the Panthers at the end of the 2011 season.

"Any sports owner will tell you that owning a team is more challenging than anything else," Watson said.

"That's because you've got to get things right in two different disciplines, the business management and the sports management.

"We've been through our ups and downs and we made some changes earlier this year to the sports side of things and we've progressed. I've got a good feeling about sports and operational side of the business, I think we're in great shape."

Scurrah said after such a long period in the job it was time for a fresh challenge, but didn't want to rush into anything.

"I have been discussing informally with Eric and Bill [Wavish, Warriors chairman] for the last year or so that at some point it would be time to move on," Scurrah said.

"It's been a long time in this type of role and from a club's point of view it's a good time as well, especially as we've been going 20 years and there are some big decisions going forward."

The one dark cloud hanging over the Warriors is the ownership feud between Watson and Sir Owen Glenn.

Glenn wants out and Watson is happy to buy his half of the club but says there hasn't been any progress with it.

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"They've indicated they want to sell their shares, so we're looking forward having a valuation done and coming back with a couple of valuations and we'll then consider those," Watson said.

"The important thing is that the shareholders do what they need to do, the buying and selling their shares, but the governance needs to continue, the board and management needs to do its job and that's what's happening.

"You can see that the Warriors is getting on with business and making key decisions, irrespective of what shareholders are doing with their shares."

Meanwhile, the club announced yesterday they're looking to play all Auckland home games at Mt Smart Stadium next year, rather than continuing the experiment of playing at Eden Park.

It's a blow to Regional Facilities Auckland, the council body which wanted to move the team permanently to the home of Auckland Rugby, so Mt Smart could be used for speedway and Western Springs for cricket.

"Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) respects the Warriors commercial decision not to move regular games to Eden Park for 2015," said RFA CEO Robert Domm in a statement.

"The RFA is however encouraged that the New Zealand Warriors are still prepared to discuss Eden Park as an option beyond 2015.

"This is a difficult decision for the Warriors, and RFA is committed to working with them, the NRL, Eden Park, ATEED and others to provide the best stadiums solution for Auckland.

"RFA believes that significant changes to the utilisation of Auckland's major stadiums will take time to resolve."

The Warriors are unchanged for Saturday night's game against the Rabbitohs in Perth.

Warriors: Sam Tomkins, David Fusitu'a, Konrad Hurrell, Ngani Laumape, Manu Vatuvei, Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Nathan Friend, Suaia Matagi, Jayson Bukuya, Ben Maytulino, Simon Mannering (c). Interchange (from) Siliva Havili, Sam Rapira, Feleti Mateo, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Tuimoala Lolohea, Charles Gubb.

- Stuff

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