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NZ Warriors fire coach Kearney after NRL loss to Souths

SYDNEY (AP) — The New Zealand Warriors have fired coach Stephen Kearney while the players and staff are in long-term camp in Australia competing in the National Rugby League. The Warriors ended Kearney’s 3 1/2-year tenure on Saturday, the morning after a 40-12 loss to South Sydney. It was the Warriors fourth loss in six games in a season interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Warriors chief executive Cameron George said Kearney was informed “we needed to make an immediate change.” “It’s a tough day for all of us. Stephen is extremely professional and has put in a huge amount of effort in the role." George said. "But along with the owners, we feel we need to make a change now in the best interests of the club.”

The Warriors have been in Australia since last month, initially undergoing a 14-day quarantine and then moving to the coast north of Sydney. Australia and New Zealand closed international borders in March as part of lockdown measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, meaning teams can't travel between the countries without having to undergo quarantine.

The Warriors have won 33 of 79 NRL games under Kearney, a former New Zealand international and long-time NRL forward. Assistant Todd Payten will take over as caretaker coach until a permanent replacement is appointed.

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