Warriors out of the running for NRL finals

The Warriors' against-the-odds run to the NRL finals is over while Penrith have closed in on the minor premiership.

Warriors interim head coach TODD PAYTEN
Warriors interim head coach TODD PAYTEN Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Todd Payten had nothing but praise for the commitment shown by his Warriors outfit despite the New Zealand team bowing out of the NRL premiership race.

After defying all the odds to remain in the hunt for the playoffs, the Warriors' charge was extinguished with Sunday's 22-14 loss to Cronulla.

The Warriors led 14-12 with seven minutes to play, before two late Cronulla tries slammed the door shut on the NRL's top-eight.

But still, it's hard to believe it was the Warriors who were the closest to breaking in given the away-from-home struggles forced on them by COVID-19.

Their horror injury run aside, the Warriors have four players back in New Zealand on compassionate grounds.

The club has also not been able to train properly for more than a month, while football staff have even been injured filling in positions.

Such was their state when Payten took over from the sacked Kearney, they were flogged 50-6 by Melbourne.

But since that loss they have somehow outperformed several other sides in far better situations.

"I'm very proud of this organisation," Payten, who will take charge of North Queensland next year, said.

"I feel like we've become a team over the past eight weeks. It has showed in the way we played

"I spoke to them after the match about (the Melbourne loss). I questioned the players toughness, commitment and care for the jersey then.

"We've turned that around to become a team that is tough and committed. I am proud to coach them."

Payten revealed the Warriors felt even more pain this week, with Adam Blair mourning the death of his grandmother in New Zealand.

Others like Roger Tuivasa-Sheck have not seen their young families since May, while the team has lived out of hotels since re-locating to Australia.

"Adam had a really tough couple of days, his grandmother passed away. She was ill," Payten said.

"Him having to deal with that, not being able to go home. She has played an instrumental part in his life.

"The way he handled the last two days around the group for himself, his teammates and his family was incredible."

Sunday's result leaves the NRL with only the jostle for top-four spots and home finals heading into the last two rounds.

Penrith can claim the minor premiership with a win over North Queensland on Friday night, while Melbourne's win over the Cowboys on Sunday all but wrapped up second.

With the Sydney Roosters third, the real battle is likely to lie between Parramatta and Canberra for fourth.

Parramatta have matches against Brisbane and Wests Tigers to win or else they will risk dropping below Canberra.

South Sydney are one point ahead of Newcastle and two ahead of Cronulla in the race for sixth and a home final.

But the Sharks have the toughest run home with clashes against the Raiders and Roosters to finish.