Warriors co-owner Sir Owen Glenn admits he doubted the ability of new coach Matt Elliott to get the best out of the side's Polynesian playing base.
The Sydney-based Kiwi millionaire is targeting a top-eight finish for the Warriors in the first grade this year and ruled out a bid for former All Black Sonny Bill Williams after his one-year contract with the Roosters ends later this year.
Glenn, who bought into the Warriors alongside Eric Watson last March, infamously joked at last year's press conference to unveil Elliott at Mt Smart Stadium that he hadn't heard of the former Raiders and Panthers coach only weeks before.
Since then he has watched Elliott put his mark on the Warriors side through the pre-season drills.
He has been suitably impressed, but concedes he had some concerns whether the Australian might struggle to "mesh" with the side's Polynesians; even hinting at teething issues for Elliott.
"I like the way he does things, and like how he's brought discipline back into the ranks," Glenn said.
"I had a little concern whether he would mesh with the Polynesian psyche - but I've convinced myself that it's the Polynesian psyche that needs to mesh with him, and it has.
"He had a couple of rough things there - but he smoothed them over and sorted them out. He took the bull by the horns and said ‘this is the way we're going to do things around here'. He said ‘it's my way'." Following the axing of Brian McClennan last August, Elliott was brought in to head up a new-look Warriors coaching setup which has since seen former Crusaders trainer Carl Jennings, former Raiders assistant Andrew McFadden and sports science manager Brad Morris added.
Glenn believes the new personnel have transformed the Warriors into "strong contenders" and has targeted a top-eight finish. "I think they'll make the top eight. I'd like to see them win it, but somewhere in between has to be acceptable from the low ebb we went to last year," he said.
"I think we'll give it a nudge this year, and if we don't manage to make it this year, I certainly think we'll be strong contenders.
"We've got the right coaching staff, that's the key. I'm certainly going to keep my eye firmly on it. I think Eric Watson will agree - we took our eye off it [last year] and we didn't have the right people in the right places."
The NRL is set for an increase to the salary cap in 2014, with the latest reports out of Australia suggesting it could rise from A$4.4 million (NZ$5.5m) to about A$5.8m. The Warriors still sit well below the salary cap, Glenn confirmed, opening debate whether the club could be set to make a run at one of the NRL's upcoming big name free agents, such as Jonathan Thurston or Williams.
Glenn did not wish to be drawn about big name signings, but said it was unlikely Williams would be heading to Mt Smart Stadium.
"He's a great athlete, and he brings a bit of glamour to it all, but I'm more concerned with the next players coming up," he said.
"Let's find some more Sonny Bills. I don't think we hang our hat on one or more - and we don't want to pick up guys that are reaching the end of their career. Not just Sonny Bill, but some others.
"Would he make all the difference and take us to a grand final? I don't think so. It's not a single man's sport - it's a team game."
- Sunday Star Times
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