The Warriors have confirmed that Panthers assistant coach Andrew Webster will join the club as its head coach from the start of 2023.
Webster has a strong link to the Warriors after serving as an assistant coach there between 2015 and 2016 and will take over from interim coach Stacey Jones, who club CEO Cameron George confirmed wasn’t interested in continuing in the role on a long-term basis.
George said Webster comes highly recommend by Penrith head coach Ivan Cleary, who took Webster with him to the Panthers after previously working with him at the Wests Tigers.
Webster’s past experience with the club was also a contributing factor in his recruitment.
“I have had a couple of chats with Ivan… he was hugely complimentary of Webby’s work ethic, the type of character he is and what he can bring to the table as a coach,” George said.
[Ivan] has no doubt in his mind that Andrew is a head coach, no doubt.Cameron George Warriors CEO
“[The previous link to the Warriors] was an element that we placed a fair bit of weight on, that he understood the landscape in which we work in and obviously the logistical challenges that our club has travelling back and forth [between Australia and New Zealand].
“He’s got a very good understanding of that, so he wasn’t walking into this role not understanding or knowing any of those challenges.”
Viewed by many as one of the best young coaches in the game, George said Webster was in the top group of candidates the club identified, while confirming both he and Warriors owner Mark Robinson also spoke to Kristian Woolf about his interest in the role.
The current Mate Ma’a Tonga and St Helens mentor was ruled out of contention when he indicated his preference would be to return to Australia, not New Zealand, when he finishes in England.
Panthers CEO Matt Cameron acknowledged the key role Webster played in the club’s Premiership success and said that while disappointed to be losing him, the Panthers were pleased to see him get an opportunity to be a head coach at NRL level.
Webster, who will become the 12th head coach in the club’s history, said he was excited and honoured to be joining the Warriors.
“I loved my time in Auckland when I was last there and I’m really looking forward to making it home again,” Webster said.
“I feel we have a real opportunity to progress the club and I can’t wait to hit the ground in November.”
George meanwhile assured the Panthers that Webster will be left to focus on his role at Penrith for the remainder of the NRL season.
“He needs to focus on the job at hand at Penrith, and that’s our commitment to Ivan,” George said.
“We are going to forget about this now, we’ll talk occasionally if we need to, but everything is focussed for him to do his job and for Stacey to do his job here.”
Webster was also recently named as one of many new faces in the Samoa coaching ranks for the upcoming Rugby League World Cup.