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Blast from past for Kearney as Storm nears

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 8/03/2017 Angelo Risso
PALMERSTON NORTH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 19:  Coach Stephen Kearney of the Warriors looks on during the NRL Trial match © Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images PALMERSTON NORTH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 19: Coach Stephen Kearney of the Warriors looks on during the NRL Trial match

Warriors boss Stephen Kearney will come up against a club he knows intimately on Friday in Melbourne Storm, where he was both player and assistant coach.

Few people on either side of the Tasman Sea are better qualified to talk about Melbourne Storm than Stephen Kearney.

The new Warriors boss spent six years as a player in the Victorian capital from 1999 to 2004, winning the club's maiden Premiership, before returning as an assistant coach for five seasons from 2006.

In that time, Kearney was able to watch up close and personal as Craig Bellamy drove the side to two since-stripped NRL Premierships.

But even before the golden era of Bellamy, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and company, Kearney says the club had the key ingredient of success - culture.

From the top down, the club was in sync on where it was, where it needed to be and how it was going to get there.

"Without a doubt the people help, wonderful people down there who have a real eye for what success looks like," Kearney said.

"I thought they had a wonderful culture but Craig's only enhanced that, and that's why they are the way they are."

Friday's tussle in Auckland will pit Kearney against his old mentor once again, having lost two of three match-ups in an unhappy two-year spell at Parramatta.

But while the Storm's Kiwi linchpins Jesse Bromwich and Tohu Harris will miss the tie, Kearney is almost certain to have Simon Mannering and Charlie Gubb available.

The Warriors vice-captain has overcome a neck issue sustained in Sunday's 26-22 win over Newcastle, while Gubb is expected to pass concussion tests.

Only hooker Issac Luke is in doubt, having injured a rib against the Knights.

Kearney said he was pleased with his side's edge defence against last year's wooden-spooners but that they made life too easy for their opponents.

A similar performance against Melbourne would be punished severely.

"You just know when you come up against Melbourne that you have to play well to get the result, they're not going to give you a great deal," Kearney said.

"My focus is on preparing the team, giving them the belief and confidence that we can go out there on Friday and perform well.

"We definitely need to improve but I'm really excited about that contest."

Skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck echoed his coach's thoughts, saying Melbourne were a world class outfit.

But he was confident the side could mix it with last year's runners-up, having received a boost from their late win over Newcastle.

"It definitely showed that the competition is heating up and the NRL is a tough competition," Tuivasa-Sheck said.

"We can't be that soft (again) on defence."

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