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Big changes made to football department

Vodafone Warriors chief executive Cameron George has today confirmed vastly-experienced coach Nathan Brown, former Wallabies rugby union strength and conditioning coach Craig Twentyman and ex-Kiwi international Slade Griffin have been signed in key football department roles.

Long-time St George Illawarra and Newcastle NRL coach Brown is coming on board as a specialist coach during the preseason, Twentyman is the new head of the performance department and Griffin has been signed as Future Warriors Programme coach.

George also confirmed 2019 Jersey Flegg Cup (under-20) coach Greg Boulous becomes SG Ball Cup (under-18) coach and Future Warriors Programme general manager while World Cup 9s-winning Kiwi Ferns coach and Warriors NRLW assistant Justin Morgan takes over as the club’s Canterbury Cup coach.

“These appointments have been made after extensive consideration, each of them designed to improve our football department in critical areas,” said George.

“Nathan has terrific credentials with his background as a coach and former player. He’ll work with the squad over the summer and will be used from time to time during the course of the season.

“Craig is going to be a tremendous asset in our performance area and Slade is a perfect fit working alongside Greg in helping to create a cohesive pathway for young players which the club has long needed.

“Justin further bolsters our football department with his extensive background as a top-level coach.

“These appointments will provide us with new voices, new energy and new ideas in key areas as we head into the preseason.”

As a specialist hooker, Brown made 172 first-grade appearances for St George and St George Illawarra and has a record of more than 430 games coaching St George Illawarra and Newcastle in the NRL as well as Huddersfield and St Helens in the English Super League.

New Zealand-born Twentyman has been in strength and conditioning roles with Rugby Australia since 2007. He was head of performance for Australia’s women’s sevens team from 2013-2018 and has had the same role with the men’s team since last year.

Griffin (28) has moved into the coaching arena after being forced into early retirement following his fourth knee reconstruction last year. The Greymouth-raised hooker, a grand final winner with Melbourne in 2017, made his Kiwi debut in last year’s one-off Test against England in Denver. With his NRL career taken away from him after just 41 appearances since his 2013 debut, he wanted to remain involved with the game and found a role supporting the Knights as a trainer and on-field runner in the blue shirt this season.

Former Vodafone Warriors prop Morgan has previously been an assistant NRL coach with the Vodafone Warriors, Canberra and Melbourne as well as being head coach at Hull Kingston Rovers in England.

The appointments follow the departures of general manager football Brian Smith, head of athletic performance Alex Corvo and Canterbury Cup coach Nathan Cayless.

George said with Smith leaving, Boulous would head up development.

“It’s fantastic that recent staff recruitment has allowed growth from within and we can spread the work requirements across existing staff and give them a chance to grow in the club,” said George.

“Peter O’Sullivan will continue in his role and will work closely across all parts of the development, pathways and coaching areas.”

George said Smith had joined the club two years ago at a critical time.

“We needed to bring in someone like Brian then who had significant experience,” he said.

“He came in to do a role and he has implemented a number of key elements, notably the new Future Warriors programme. The benefits of this will be great for us long-term.

“The work done in this area has seen the general manager football role transition into more of an administration and overseeing one as opposed to the one introduced when Brian started, which was focused on football structure and knowledge.

“We thank Brian very much for his contribution and wish him all the best.

“We also appreciate the work Alex and Nathan have done at the club. They were both keen to return to Australia for family reasons.”

George said more football-related announcements were expected in the near future.