Todd Payten sees a stronger bond between his players than ever before in his two years at the Warriors, crediting nightly cooking duties for the latest on-field fightback that keeps the club's slim finals hopes alive.
The 20-14 comeback win over Canterbury moves them into an equal share of ninth place on the ladder, albeit with a far inferior points differential to the Tigers, Dragons and Sea Eagles.
Payten's team still sits four competition points behind the eighth-placed Sharks, but mathematically there is still a chance for an undeniably feelgood finals run from the Warriors.
Regardless, Payten says his team has made significant strides that will benefit the club in years to come after relocating to Australia to keep the Telstra Premiership alive this year.
The Warriors have been in camp, first in Tamworth and then at Terrigal on the Central Coast, since May, and have spent more time together as a group than most players would've ever considered in their rugby league careers.
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"There's a good connection there at the moment," Payten said.
"We're in each other's pockets. We've probably got one or two guys that are really private.
"But for the young guys, this is just a little thing, at the start everyone was going their separate ways. It'd be small groups for dinner.
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"Now the boys are starting to cook for each other, having five or six guys over a night. Taking it in turns [to cook], enjoying each other's company.
"We've had a couple of team activities together. On that front it's been really good for us.
"We've talked about connection here for two years since I've been at the club.
"But in Auckland we'd be training and everyone would just want to go home. In that regard it's been really good and it's showed in how they're fighting for each other."
Payten is considered a front-runner for the Cowboys' vacant head coaching job after knocking back an extension offer to stay on full-time at the Warriors next season.
With seemingly every Warriors performance his coaching credentials grow, but he is refusing to look past each week's game with good reason.
Loaned Eels players George Jennings and Daniel Alvaro return to Parramatta this week, the latest challenge for the Warriors in a year where "something usually pops up every three or four days" for Payten and his staff to navigate.
"That's the furthest thing from my mind," Payten said when asked about an unlikely finals charge.
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"Looking at four, five weeks down the track is almost suicidal."
Boom back-rower Eliesa Katoa will return from suspension against Newcastle, with the game being taken to Tamworth by the Warriors to thank the town for its hospitality earlier this year.
Payten lauded the debut of 20-year-old livewire half Paul Turner against the Bulldogs, but expects Chanel Harris-Tavita to return from a head knock suffered in a training accident during the week.