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)

When Andrew Webster and Cameron Ciraldo departed Penrith this year to take head coaching roles elsewhere, they promised not to raid the Panthers roster.

They didn't say anything about not taking ideas from it.

While Ciraldo has a host of promising signatures and signs at Belmore, Webster has a little more work to do with his struggling Warriors squad. While he has the luxury of a return to New Zealand for pre-season for the first time since 2020, there's a lot more that needs fixing across the ditch.

Mainly, their junior system.

GOSFORD, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 09: Ken Maumalo of the Warriors celebrates with his team during the round five NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Manly Sea Eagles at Central Coast Stadium, on April 09, 2021, in Gosford, Australia. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

Webster has gone from one rich rugby league nursery to another, however there's a lot more road blocks for the Warriors compared to Penrith within their own system.

The Panthers are arguably the pinnacle at the moment in terms of their juniors, with 13 one-club players in their victorious 2021 NRL Grand Final side, and followed it up with 14 in this season's decider.

While the Warriors have some spectacular juniors, rugby union often pinches the pick of the bunch, with a large portion of their rugby league juniors being union rejects.

Phil Gould began setting up pathways during his brief stint with the New Zealand club, however their affiliation with Redcliffe in the Queensland Cup has now dissolved, and Gould has since become Ciraldo's asset at Canterbury.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 16: Canterbury Bulldogs NRL General Manager of Football Phil Gould speaks to the media at Belmore Sports Ground on May 16, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. Gould spoke to the media as he left the ground after the announcement this morning that Trent Barrett had quit the role of Bulldogs head coach. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

However, the Warriors NSW Cup side is returning in 2023 as is their SG Ball team now that the club has returned to Kiwi shores, Webster recognising how key these pathways are.

"Something you take is the pathways program that Penrith have installed for a long period of time," Webster told AAP.

"I just don't see why we can't generate that here in New Zealand and Auckland.

"We've got to develop our own. I'm super passionate about that."

The reinstatement of their pathways means the club won't have to loan players from elsewhere any longer, and can instead focus on developing and blooding their own youngsters.

NRL Rd 6 - Rabbitohs v Warriors
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 19: The Warriors look on during the round six NRL match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the New Zealand Warriors at Bankwest Stadium on June 19, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The new coach is adamant that they mustn't rush their development however, Gould's initial 'five-year plan' stretching to a decade before the club won their next premiership, a telltale sign of how gradual the pathways can be.

"These things take time," Webster said.

"One thing about the junior pathways system is that they're your future in five years' time.

"But I think being back home, if you're a kid in this country right now, you're saying, 'How cool is it that I've now got an NRL team to go and watch and that I one day want to play for'."

Pressure will be low for Webster, with the Warriors' last finals game victory coming all the way back in 2011, and just a singular finals game since then.