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Todd Payten believes he has served a long enough apprenticeship to become a head coach and he's got the next 15 weeks to prove to the Warriors that he can do the job long term.

No timing is perfect to end a coach's regime at a club, let alone during a pandemic, with a surprise phone call from Warriors CEO Cameron George on Saturday the catalyst for Payten to discover a near decade-long dream following the abrupt end to Stephen Kearney's tenure.

"When I spoke to Cam in the first phone call he said there's no pressure from the club, he just wanted me to dive in head first and have a crack so that's what I'm doing," Payten said on Wednesday.

"I don't think I had another alternative, I could've let someone else come in but I feel the responsibility to this club and the players so that's what I'm doing, diving in head first and seeing where it takes us.

"The thing about becoming a head coach is you don't know until you've been given a shot. You can come into the game too early [but] I've had nine years as a professional coach so it's a fair apprenticeship.

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"I've been involved in some successful programs and places that haven't been so successful. I know the difference between the two.

"I'm just trying to put my stamp on it one step at a time and have got another 15 weeks to make it mine completely."

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As for the side's on-field performances, which have been inconsistent at best, Payten's next steps were to instil his own methods into the framework despite limited time left in the season.

"We've put a lot more focus on our defence, it won't happen overnight but a small step-by-step process," Payten said.

"A lot of that is around our attitude and desire to get the job done. We're still processing all that. We've made changes over the past 24 hours around game-day stuff but moving forward there may be some changes around where we're at.

"My first thoughts have been around preparing for a footy game and around that is our players' headspace and making sure we're ready to go.

"The gist of it is we haven't been tough enough for long enough. Those two things are what we need to change."

Payten's time transitioning from a 15-year experienced NRL player to a coach lasted all but two months at the end of the Wests Tigers' season in 2011.

A nine-year apprenticeship learning alongside the likes of Michael Potter, Paul Green and Kearney will end on Friday night when Payten's credentials finally get the chance to come to fruition.

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In a player-coaching career that spans more than two decades, the 41-year-old has seen it all – the highs and lows, the shock and the awe.

Payten was part of Potter's coaching staff after guiding the under 20s side to a title in 2012, before shifting north to link with Green before the Cowboys' 2015 premiership-winning season.  

Prior to that he played 251 NRL games at prop with stints at the Wests Tigers, Roosters and Raiders.

While potential replacements will be floated in the media over the coming months, Payten's first mission since Saturday has been to galvanise the squad.

We haven't been tough enough for long enough.

Todd Payten

The team has remained in Australia for nearly two months and started the resumption of the season with two wins and two losses.

Any talk over a player revolt because of Kearney's sacking had quickly been dismissed by the interim coach after a few days of soul searching.

"I opened up the floor on Sunday afternoon and let them clear their head, open their mouths and we spoke about what our job is and to not use it as an excuse – that was the gist of it," Payten said.

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"They've been pretty good to be fair, a lot of stuff went on early over the weekend. We've addressed it and our focus has been on Friday night.

"We've had two good sessions and spoke at length at different times with different people and everyone's in the right spot. The focus ever since has been about the game."

The Warriors received some good news with stop-gap Roosters recruit Poasa Faamausili set to remain with the squad indefinitely after the premiers granted the prop further time on loan to help ease their injury toll.

It comes after their clash with the Storm was moved to Kogarah, much closer to their Central Coast base than Melbourne, while they're also set to gain a few players back from injury in the coming weeks.


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The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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