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Working class Webby: The making of the man behind the Warriors

As the middle part of the session approaches and the last of the sunlight disappears in southern New England, the call goes out and the sound of jingling car keys fills the air. 

A narrow strip of grass in this unassuming park, located behind a supermarket, becomes illuminated by the headlights of half a dozen or so vehicles, which in lieu of proper floodlights is enough to allow the Connecticut Wildcats to finish their mid-week training run.

The man in charge, Andrew Webster, is there mostly for his ability as a player, having previously been a handy talent in the Sydney lower grades.

But this particular year he's getting more satisfaction from the latter part of his captain-coach title, and while the season in Connecticut ultimately ended in heartbreak – when his glory-bound cut-out pass that was destined to send Cutris Cunz over for the winning try in the grand final was tipped into touch – he left knowing he'd found his calling in coaching. 

"That was my first opportunity to coach and I preferred the coaching more than the playing, as much fun as it was. That's when I realised it was actually what I wanted to do with my career," Webster tells 

"The learning curve was unbelievable in Connecticut; you had to have more than just a coaching head on, you had to be around every role, down to sorting sponsorship and making sure guys could get to training."

Dolphins v Warriors: Round 27

Keen to pursue this new vocation, but still with a desire to see the world, he headed to Hull KR in the UK, where older brother James, who was the team's halfback, asked then head coach Justin Morgan – who ironically is now one of the assistants at the Warriors – to give Andrew a chance.

"He was coaching our U-21 team and they had to train in the carpark because there was no facilities," Morgan recalls. 

"I can’t remember the figures we were paying him, but it was a token amount of money, and he just said, 'I’ll just do whatever I need to do’.

"So I got him some work cleaning at the stadium and instead of saying ‘oh na, I want to be a coach’ he said ‘righto, that's sweet' and he went and did it.

"He was great for me as a coach. I was a young head coach and he didn’t let me get away with stuff, he challenged me.

People don’t understand some of the sacrifices he’s made, but I do because I saw them firsthand.

Justin Morgan

Visa issues at the end of 2007 forced Webster back to Australia and he was left without a paid gig for the following season.

If ever there was a time to change course, or give up on coaching completely, this would have been it, but instead he was willing to do what plenty of others weren't - offering up his services free of charge to the Eels' U-20 side. 

In order to survive Webster earned a crust as a personal trainer during the day before heading to trainings at night. 

"I worked hard. In every disappointment there is always an opportunity and that was that opportunity for me," Webster says. 

"If you add up all those moments in your life, you're grateful for every single opportunity and that’s one that if I didn’t have it, I don’t know where I’d be now."

For Matt Cameron, the coach of that Parramatta U-20 side, who has since gone on to become the CEO of the Penrith District Rugby League Football Club, Webster was the gift that kept on giving. 

"I thought he would just come for a few sessions. In the end I don’t think he missed one all year," Cameron tells 

"It was pretty clear he was going to be something in this space.

He was on par with anyone I had working with me in a support role and by the end of the season he was basically one of the assistant coaches.

Matt Cameron

After helping to develop talent that included future NSW representatives Trent Hodkinson, Tony Williams and Tim Mannah that season, Webster returned to the UK in 2009 where he spent another three years.

He's now a two-time premiership-winning assistant and among the favourites to claim Dally M Coach of the Year, after taking the Warriors from 15th place to the top four in the space of 12 months.

But ask Webster about the more humble parts of his career and he has nothing but gratitude and praise for the opportunities. 

Cameron also has no doubt those times are a big reason why the 41-year-old has been successful at NRL level. 

"It's meant he has experienced a whole range of head coaches and he has seen a broad spectrum," Cameron says. 

Webster, pictured with Warriors captain Tohu Harris, has won 70 percent of his games since taking over as head coach in 2023. ©NRL Photos
Webster, pictured with Warriors captain Tohu Harris, has won 70 percent of his games since taking over as head coach in 2023. ©NRL Photos

"I think part of his make-up is that stuff, and he’s picked the really good bits out of each of them.

"Watching him in the '21 and '22 seasons at Penrith and his work at other clubs, it was very clear he had the skillset to do it, he just needed the opportunity.

"I think this was meant to be."

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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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