Warriors coach Stephen Kearney left with few selection options video

David Long / Stuff.co.nz

Coach Stephen Kearney explains the lack of changes he's made to the Warriors team to face the Raiders this weekend after a poor performance against the Knights in the last round.

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney says other players in the team can count themselves lucky not to have suffered the same fate as Issac Luke.

The Kiwis hooker has been relegated to the bench for Sunday's game against the Raiders at Mt Smart Stadium, making it the second season in a row where he's had to cop such embarrassment.

He's been replaced by Nathaniel Roache, one of the few shining lights in the dreadful 26-10 loss to the Knights last weekend.

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has run out of selection options for his under performing team.
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Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has run out of selection options for his under performing team.

Luke was the only big name casualty from that performance, although Kearney said on Wednesday there were others fortunate to remain.

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"If I thought there were better options I would certainly make those changes. But there are a couple of lads who are lucky," Kearney said.

The fact that there weren't more changes highlight how bad the situation is at the club, in that there's not enough depth in a squad already without Shaun Johnson and Bodene Thompson.

Kearney had no option but to again put out the players he accused of not trying hard enough last weekend.

For Luke, he's unfortunate that there is plenty of depth at hooker, with Roach, Jazz Tevaga and Manaia Cherrington all snapping at his heels.

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So he has to pay the price for not playing well against the Knights.

"We have an expectation as a group and I feel he didn't reach that level," Kearney said.

"As I've said all along, if I think there's an opportunity and there's someone I think can do a job better, then I'll make necessary changes.

"Nathaniel played really well before he got injured and he came on and provided the group with a spark, which is why he gets an opportunity this week."

Kearney said Luke has responded to his demotion in the manner he hoped, by being determined to be better.

"For a guy of his experience, he's disappointed," Kearney said. 

"I'd be disappointed if he wasn't, but he's responded really well, he trained well today and he understands the nature of the business.

"It's about performance and getting your job done. Unfortunately on Saturday he failed to do that, so I'm sure he'll be back bigger and stronger."

The players had their review of the Knights game on Tuesday and Kearney said he didn't hold back in telling the players what he thought.

"It was pretty honest, it was the only way we're going to move forward from it," he said. 

"I don't think there was anyone spared."

There may be just the diehard Warriors fans in attendance at 4pm on Sunday to see the Warriors take on a Raiders side that's battling for a spot in the top eight.

With just two games left at Mt Smart this season, it's important that the club tries to finish off the campaign on a good note.

With the public humiliation the players have received, it should give them plenty of motivation to be up for this game and obviously Kearney is demanding an improved performance. 

"That's the challenge regardless of this," he said. 

"Making sure whatever's going on on the outside, we have a set of expectations in what we want to achieve in the game and that doesn't change.

"The month previous to last weekend there was some really good stuff and it's not dismissing that, it's about saying there was some good stuff we were doing.

"With the confidence being down in the group, it's about making sure that I give them some confidence that there has been some positive progress in areas during the course of the year. 

"Then we go out there to achieve those little goals we set ourselves."

Meanwhile, Kearney said he hoped Johnson would be back sooner rather than later from his knee injury.

 

 - Stuff

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