Kemp still Rangitira at Warriors

Warriors coach Tony Kemp will be the boss at the NRL club in 2005, despite the army of coaching talent at his disposal.

That's the message from Warriors CEO Mick Watson in the wake of the Auckland-based club's worst season in which it finished 14th on the ladder.

Kemp only had the assistance of former Kiwi forward Tony Iro after the club sacked Daniel Anderson in June this year.

Iro remains but the Warriors have recruited to their coaching staff former club favourites Ivan Cleary and Kevin Campion, plus accomplished local Bartercard Cup coach John Ackland.

Watson said the idea was based on the American NFL model: Kemp was head coach, Cleary attacking coach, Campion defensive coach and Ackland in charge of talent spotting and development of young players.

"Tony Kemp sets the tactics, sets the plays, tells everyone what he wants," added Watson.

"Ivan owns our attack, Kevin owns our defence - that's capitalising on our strengths."

Watson admits, with benefit of hindsight, that he erred last season as the Warriors struggled.

The team was unbalanced; there was insufficient Australian player input; the pre-season emphasis was on building muscle and power at the expense of aerobic work, speed and ball skills and the pre-season build-up was not right.

"I realised by round three and four that we were in trouble. We had a young team that was going away from the game plan," said Watson.

"We were not tough in the middle. We were blowing out 20 minutes before each hooter.

"We had to go back to a big, solid middle, a core of Australian experience that we'd had in the past."

Former Bulldogs captain Steve Price was on light duties at training this week after knee surgery but is not far off resuming full contact.

Ruben Wiki was in the process of shifting house and is expected at Ericsson Stadium next week.

The Kiwi internationals who took part in New Zealand's Tri Nations campaign returned on Monday and have a short break, with work scheduled for basic fitness.

While the Warriors' go-forward will certainly improve with Price and Wiki in the pack, it is seeing Stacey Jones back to his best that the Warriors most want.

Jones is the same weight as last year but has lost body fat and put on muscle.

He is leading sprints, which suggests he has finally made a full recovery from injuries that ravaged him from mid-2003.

"Stacey has found more drive and desire than I believe he's ever had," Watson said.

Monty Betham and Awen Guttenbeil were also approaching their work with renewed energy.

"With them and Richard Villasanti all at a level of fitness they haven't been at before and Price and Wiki, I think you'll see Stacey operating a lot better this season. He needs room to move, he wasn't getting it."

The Warriors have plenty of options at hooker in North Queensland buy Nathan Fien, Kiwis No.9 Louis Anderson and Tevita Latu.

Watson said he felt more commitment around the club and the players had been stung by criticism this year.

"They thought they were under attack. But we had to look at the situation and say, `We said we'd never get to this and we're there'."

Watson said the pressure was on everyone at the Warriors to perform next year, including himself.

"At the start of the pre-season we all bought in to the one word, 'relentless'. It's about attitude and commitment," Watson told the League Correspondent.

To keep the Warriors on track, the word is written large on a banner hanging in their gym.