The axe has fallen on Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney.
Kearney was fired by the club today after a little more than three years at the helm, on the back of the side's 40-12 thumping at the hands of the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Friday night.
The Warriors have been a mixed bag throughout 2020, with a 2-4 record through the opening six rounds and a 2-2 record since the competition restarted following a Covid-19 enforced hiatus.
"It was a very difficult decision," said Warriors chief executive Cameron George.
"However we believe, the owners and myself, after long considerations and discussions that this was the right thing for the club to do."
With the Warriors being based in Terrigal on Australia's Central Coast due to the Covid-19 travel restrictions, Kearney did not have a face-to-face meeting to learn his fate, but was instead told over the phone and tasked with sharing the news with the playing group.
George said he would have liked the opportunity to have the conversation with Kearney in person, and said the playing group was not consulted at any point in the decision making process.
"None of this just pops up overnight. We as a club constantly review and evaluate; we understand where we're going in the future and understand what's been happening in the past. Over an extended period of time we constantly review performances of all staff and players.
"We obviously have had a bit of a challenging year on and off the field, and that's off the back on a challenging year last year as well. So it's a compounding effect that we need to make decisions in the best interests of the club, and this we believe is the right one."
Kearney joined the Warriors in 2017, replacing Andrew McFadden on a three-year deal. The club struggled in his first season in charge, finishing the year 13th on the ladder with a 7-17 record.
However, in 2018 Kearney led the side to their first playoffs berth since 2011, finishing eighth at the end of the regular season before being eliminated by the Penrith Panthers in the opening round of the post-season.
The campaign earned him a contract extension, signing on until the end of the 2022 season in February 2019. But with the side failing to reach similar heights – again finishing in 13th with a losing record – pressure came on for results.
Assistant coach Todd Payten will take over at the helm in the interim as the club looks for a permanent replacement. George said the club was yet to identify certain individuals, but would now begin that process.
While the team holds a poor record this season and was battered in their last match, the timing of the decision to release Kearney raises some questions.
The Warriors have two good wins since returning to action last month, which has them sitting 12th on the ladder, and are heading into a very winnable stretch of games. Excluding the Melbourne Storm – who they will meet next weekend – the Warriors won't face a team currently sitting in the top eight until they meet the Sydney Roosters in round 11. Between the Storm and the Roosters, the Warriors will meet the Brisbane Broncos (13th), Gold Coast Titans (16th) and Cronulla Sharks (14th) over the next month.
"There's never a right time," George said of making the call now.
"Where do you draw a line? We've got to look after the club's best interests. It's not ideal timing, absolutely not, because of the situation we're currently in, but that doesn't negate my core principles around decision making which is the club's interests first and the future of the club.
"We haven't put the white flag up on this season at all. In fact, it's the opposite – we've got to chase what's in front of us, we're dealing with, and we'll come out the other end."