Interim coach ready to dive in

Interim Warriors coach Todd Payten watches on as Roger Tuivasa-Sheck carries the ball during...
Interim Warriors coach Todd Payten watches on as Roger Tuivasa-Sheck carries the ball during training. Photo: Getty Images
Todd Payten has served his apprenticeship. Now, it's time for him to dive into the deep end.

To this point, Payten's coaching credentials speak for themselves. He's led the Wests Tigers under-20s to a title, New South Wales' under-18s to back-to-back wins over Queensland and was a member of the North Queensland Cowboys Grand Final-winning coaching staff in 2015.

Now, after nine years as a professional coach, the former Wests Tigers forward will have his first game as an NRL head coach this Friday when he leads the Warriors against the Melbourne Storm.

"I've been in successful systems; I know what they look like. I've been in systems where it hasn't been so successful, and I know what they look like. From that standpoint I think I've done my time," Payten said.

"When I spoke to [Warriors chief executive] Cam [George] in that first phone call, he said there was no pressure from the club, they just wanted me to dive into it head first and have a crack, so that's what I'm doing.

"I don't think I had any other alternative. I could've left it for someone else to come and have a crack at, but I feel a responsibility to this club and this group so that's what I'm doing; I'm diving in head first and seeing where it takes us with no thought about what happens in the future."

Payten takes the reins until the end of the season in an interim capacity while the club looks to find a permanent option, after firing Stephen Kearney on Saturday morning following the club's 40-12 loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

In his first week at the helm, Payten emphasised the Warriors weren't far off despite the score line against the Rabbitohs, with their first half performance in the game a major focus of their review this week.

The Warriors created plenty of opportunities in the match but couldn't put the finishing touches to them. It's something Payten hopes to change.

"We haven't been tough enough for long enough, or consistent. Those two things are the things we need to change. It's not going to happen immediately; it is a thing that's going to take a little bit of time," Payten said.

"I've asked the players to back themselves this week. We created several opportunities last week which we didn't ice. We were over the try line three times and [the Rabbitohs] are a pretty good defensive team. I asked the team to watch the first half, in particular, as part of our review and just get a feel for it.

"The point I was trying to make was we were on top and playing the better for large parts of that 40 minutes. In a lot of ways we're close, in other areas we're a million miles away. We need to shorten the gap in all those areas."

The Warriors will be without Eliesa Katoa for Friday night's clash against Melbourne, with the young star forward expected to be out of action for about three weeks due to an ankle injury. Payten said the Warriors wouldn't be rushing the 20-year-old back onto the park, given "his age and his importance to our club long-term".

David Fusitu'a and Lachlan Burr are also questionable, despite being named, after failing head injury assessments during the loss to the Rabbitohs.

Payten was hopeful the pair would be clear to return to action but said plans were in place should they be unavailable.

"They trained today so we've got to see how they pull up. Symptom-free, they should be alright to go. We've got some contingencies there in place but we're hopeful at the moment."

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