NRL Rd 4 - Wests Tigers v Storm
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 26: Tigers interim coach Andrew Webster looks on during the round four NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Melbourne Storm at Leichhardt Oval on March 26, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

He might not be surrounded by the same fanfare as fellow Panthers assistant-turned-first grade coach Cameron Ciraldo, but new Warriors coach Andrew Webster has hit the ground running as he prepares for his first season at the helm of the New Zealand Warriors in 2023.

Webster has shed plenty of light on his first few weeks at the club, revealing that a chat with New Zealand and Warriors' favourite son Shaun Johnson was a priority after a recent downturn in form and output had led to questions about his commitment.

“I told Shaun that if he had the fire and ambition to play at the highest level and to his potential, then I wanted him here,” Webster told the Daily Telegraph.

“I couldn't have made that clearer – and he couldn't have answered stronger.

“I know when he's happy off the field and connected to his family, that's when Shaun plays his best football. I know that from first-hand experience.

“When he returned home last year he played his best football. I'm excited about the legacy Shaun can have.”

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 24: Shaun Johnson of the Warriors in action during the round 24 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Penrith Panthers at Mt Smart Stadium on August 24, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Unlike Ciraldo, Webster's appointment was very low-key, but Webster also has a history at the club after serving as an assistant to Andrew McFadden for two years.

“Everyone asks if you're ready to be a head coach. If I stayed at Penrith for five more years then I would've been five years more ready.

“Having an opportunity to work at a club I knew and felt comfortable at is a big advantage. If someone else got offered the job and had never been living in Auckland then it would have been a different challenge.”

While Webster's appointment was certainly based on his own merits, he was also able to chat with current Panthers coach Ivan Cleary, who is still highly respected across the ditch after taking the club to the NRL Grand Final in 2011.

“The conversations with Ivan were largely around him being a friend and mentor. He was a great sounding board and very supportive.

His time at the Warriors won't technically be his debut as an NRL coach, after an interim role at Wests Tigers following Jason Taylor's departure in 2017. Though it was a mere two-game spell, Webster says he learned a lot.

“It helped me a huge amount in a lot of ways,” Webster said.

“As an interim coach, one thing I know now is that you can have an influence but you can't change the world in seven days.

“It's mental rather than technical. I walked away from the experience feeling that the pressure didn't get much more (intense) than what I faced and I felt comfortable.

“I know there's a different element now because I really had nothing to lose… I walked away from that experience feeling more comfortable managing a group.”

Though he's been part of a successful system at Penrith for a while now, Webster isn't naïve enough to think that he can simply cut and paste plans and strategies for success.

“The biggest mistake coaches make is they copy and paste things from where they've been.

“But that might not suit this group of players.

“We have things that are non-negotiables. We are going to have a team that works hard and will be a skillful attacking side.

“The best way for the Warriors to have success is via the pathways, which is hard to do when the players haven't been in New Zealand.

“The staff have done a terrific job while the NRL has been away.”