Why a four-match losing streak earned this NRL coach a five-year deal

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Andrew Webster’s upgraded contract extension – which will see him become the equal longest-serving Warriors coach in the club’s history – was negotiated in just 48 hours, without a manager.

The rookie mentor’s new three-year deal ties him to the Warriors until the end of 2028, after a year in which he was named Dally M coach of the year having revived a roster filled with bargains, journeymen and questions galore.

But for all the Warriors’ success en route to a grand final qualifier and the club’s first post-season since 2018, it was four losses in April that truly convinced the club to go all in on Webster.

“I’ve known Webby for a long time, and of course, he’s had good times this year and been great to deal with,” Warriors CEO Cameron George said of Webster, who he has known well since his first stint as a Warriors assistant in 2015-16.

“When we do have a tough time, and tough times will come, Webby’s the bloke I want to be in the trenches with. I know he’s got that character that will be better in those times.

We lost three in a row during the course of the year and the brickbats were coming again: ‘The Warriors are falling over again’, ‘The real Warriors are back’. I just sat back and watched Webby during that period and marked his card then. And what I saw was a guy who kept his head, didn’t get flustered.

Dally M coach of the year Andrew Webster.Credit: Getty

“Didn’t put any scare through the organisation, didn’t put players and staff on edge with any thought of ‘f–k, we’re not good enough now’. He kept faith in what we had set up.

“I’ve seen staff go completely the other way, change and become completely different people in those situations. I saw a guy that was going to grow with those experiences – that whole package, I marked his cards and said there’s a guy that can lead in those tough times.”

With Webster pencilled into the Warriors for another five seasons, only Trent Robinson at the Roosters can match him for job security.

Should Webster see out his contract, he would equal Ivan Cleary’s six-year stint as the longest in charge of the club. Since Cleary’s departure at the end of 2011, the Kiwi side has churned through eight coaches (two as caretakers) in 12 seasons.

George said there is “an element of keeping other clubs at bay” in Webster’s long-term deal.

“I never wanted to leave in the first place, so now I get to lock up the future which I’m really grateful for,” Webster said.

No wonder the contract was signed and sealed in just two days of negotiations after George, Webster, club owner Mark Robinson and chairman Ken Reinsfeld met on the Gold Coast last week.

Webster and the Warriors’ NRL players return in November with 28 spots in their top 30 squad for next year already settled.

Marquee signing and former club captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is slated to come back as centre and is already checking in alongside fellow returnee Chanel Harris-Tavita for regular gym sessions at the club.

The Warriors and Webster are also buoyed by long-awaited plans for the club’s new pathways to come into play, with the Warriors fielding Harold Matthews (under 17s) and Jersey Flegg (under 21s) teams in 2024 for the first time.

“That’s a big part of Webby’s [extended] tenure, too,” George said. “We’re investing in our pathways heavily, it’s a system we’ve never had at the Warriors but other clubs have had it for years.

“So for a 16- or 17-year-old kid to see who the coach is going to be for the next five years or however long it is, there’s no uncertainty about, ‘Who’s going to be coaching me at NRL’.”

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