Kearney held Warriors together: Harris

Daniel Gilhooly
Tohu Harris says sacked coach Steve Kearney had been holding the team together in camp in Australia

Senior player Tohu Harris says sacked coach Stephen Kearney was the man holding the Warriors together through their long stint in Australia and the club's bosses should have looked closer before swinging the axe.

Harris shone a light on how difficult many players have found the quarantine process away from their loved ones back in Auckland for nearly two months and the crucial role Kearney played as a father figure.

The second-rower said on Monday he wouldn't begrudge any teammate who wanted to return home or, at the very least, pull out of Friday's match against Melbourne, such is the depth of feeling within the club's apartments in Terrigal on the NSW Central Coast.

Two days after Kearney's brutal dismissal, Harris said the players and staff were still in a state of shock.

Many of them, he said, had forged a close bond with the fourth-season coach and believed management had acted in "harsh" fashion in the wake of Friday's 40-16 loss to South Sydney - a scoreline they believe was unflattering.

Kearney had overseen two wins from their last four matches and, crucially, had evolved into more than just a coach.

"Mooks (Kearney) is the one that has given us a shoulder or been the ears that a lot of us can talk to about the struggle of not being with families," Harris said on Monday.

"There's a lot of us who have worked with him and are very close to him over the years now... he's the one person that was sort of holding the team together.

"We're left scrambling pretty much."

Harris said club owners Autex Ltd can't have been aware of Kearney's importance and he was annoyed the team weren't consulted.

He accepted players wouldn't normally have a say in such matters but this season's Warriors were an exceptional case.

"They're making those decisions outside the bubble and we're in here. I feel like we could give them more current information of what it's actually like being here."

The classy Harris revealed he wouldn't have shifted from Melbourne to join the Warriors three years ago if it wasn't for Kearney, the man who gave him a first Kiwis jersey in 2013.

The players were to return to training on Tuesday under interim coach Todd Payten, who Harris said was struggling as much as anyone.

He couldn't predict what state the players will be in when they run out in Melbourne and couldn't guarantee all of them will be there.

"I certainly won't judge anyone if they feel like they're not up to it," he said.

"We were already in a tough situation where people were half-and-half and then someone they're really close to has been told to leave."