Warriors simply didn't front up: Kearney

Daniel Gilhooly
Stephen Kearney has questioned the commitment of his Warriors players after a heavy NRL defeat

Stephen Kearney won't heap blame on Peta Hiku for the Warriors' meltdown in Penrith, believing a host of players let themselves down.

The 36-4 drubbing from the under-strength Panthers on Friday has cast doubt on the Warriors' ability to remain in the top eight, having made a compelling start to the season.

Coach Kearney joined some of his players in describing it as their worst performance of the season.

Experienced centre Hiku has come in for more criticism than anyone.

Statistically one of the least-effective defenders in the competition, his right edge was targeted relentlessly by the Panthers.

He missed seven tackles before being substituted in the second half.

Kearney admits Hiku was among a group of players who failed to front but said the 25-year-old New Zealand international at least had the excuse of mid-season fatigue following his involvement in the Denver Test against England.

Others were possibly more culpable.

"That whole Penrith team ran for a total of 1900m. It wasn't all down the right edge," Kearney said.

"Momentum's got to come from somewhere.

"It was one of those performances on Friday night where we could honestly say I don't think we all had our hands up. There were a few guys who weren't prepared to get themselves a little bit dirty."

Hiku has been retained for Sunday's match against the Broncos in Brisbane.

Kearney has given the same starting team a chance to redeem itself, with just injured left winger Ken Maumalo (knee) making way for Gerard Beale.

Kearney suggested his players may have been lulled into complacency, with the Penrith build-up dominated by the fact the hosts would field a rookie halves pairing in place of absent Origin duo James Maloney and Nathan Cleary.

Although the opening quarter was even, Kearney suspected trouble lay ahead.

"After about 20 minutes of that contest, I thought we had some guys that were probably hoping for an easier day at the office," he said.

"When it came time for us to dig the heels in, we didn't respond well enough."

Kearney wouldn't bite at suggestions his eighth-placed team need to start worrying about teams below them even though they are three wins clear.

He pointed out they are closer to the ladder's top spot (four points) than they are to the ninth-placed teams (six points).

"As much as I know you would all like to catastrophise it, it's not the end of the world."