Former NZ Warriors star Sione Faumuina has labelled the Auckland club's decision to sack Stephen Kearney as the worst decision in the history of the team.
Faumuina broadcast his fiery tirade on Facebook last night after Kearney was fired by the Warriors 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 decision was met with criticism from pundits and former players, including Faumuina, who believes Kearney should've been given until the end of the season, given the team's current circumstance.
Faumuina, who played 88 games for the Warriors between 2002-06, said if he was still playing he'd want to walk out on the team.
"It's the stupidest, most ridiculous decision than any Warriors management in their history has made," said Faumuina.
"That was the dumbest decision to do considering what's going on right now. It's selfish, it lacks empathy… the worst decisions I've ever seen made in the NRL.
"I'm calling out the owner - if it was you, it was the worst thing you could have done. If I was playing and this happened, I'd want to come home now. I'd be like 'F this, send me home'.
"I don't know how anyone could pull the trigger on this decision during this time."
"I'm guessing before they left for Australia they made a pact that they were going to ride this out to the end, and to have this happen right now after this loss," Faumuina added. "It baffles me.
"Do you not understand what's going on? What these people have sacrificed to play a game. They won't see their families until the end of the season, so whoever decided to sack Stephen right now made the dumbest move ever.
"Surely common sense would've said 'let's give him till the end of the season, let's back them regardless because they've sacrificed so much', but no.
"To add this onto everything else, I hope you all come together. I know it'll be tough. I feel for all the players and the staff.
Newstalk ZB journalist and commentator Jason Pine called the decision "heartless and cold".
Heartless and cold from the Warriors. I know sport is a results business but 2020 isn’t normal in any sense and needs adjusted thinking. They’ve sacked a coach in a bubble. Not particularly classy for mine. https://t.co/c2eNJ35DQQ— Jason Pine (@pineyzb) June 20, 2020
Warriors CEO Cameron George said he felt a change of leadership was needed.
"Stephen is extremely professional and has put in a huge amount of effort in the role but, along with the owners, we feel we need to make a change now in the best interests of the club.
If I was stranded across the other side of the Tasman for the entire NRL season and away from home and family, with the results of this year not really mattering in a real context, I would simply sack the coach.— Elliott Smith (@elliottnz) June 20, 2020
"We're so grateful to Stephen for the dedication he has shown to us in what have been difficult circumstances. His commitment, work ethic and concern for the wellbeing of the club, players and their families through this challenging year is testament to his character and we wish him and his family all the best for the future."
Given the Warriors' circumstances have seen them having to loan in a player to ensure they had a large-enough squad, there were joking suggestions on Twitter that they could also be loaned a coach.
Genuinely dumbfounded that the Warriors have sacked Stephen Kearney at this point in this particular season. The side is struggling, for sure, but don’t see how getting rid of him helps right now. #NRL— Brendan Bradford (@1bbradfo) June 20, 2020
Kearney signed with the Warriors as head coach for the 2017 season, guiding the club to the finals in 2018.
Payten (41) joined the Warriors' coaching staff last season after working with the Cowboys. He was a member of their coaching staff when they won the NRL grand final in 2015. During his 259-game playing career, he experienced grand final success when he helped the Wests Tigers to their maiden premiership in 2005.
Tough day for @NZWarriors The timing, considering what team has gone through and still faces, leaves little to be desired.— D’Arcy (@DArcyWaldegrave) June 20, 2020
George said the club appreciated Payten stepping in to take up the role on an interim basis, and the club would now work with the owners on an agreed process to appoint a new head coach.