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Monday, 9 September 2019

NZ Warriors Round 25: Poor season ends on high note with Raiders upset

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
After last weeks disappointing final home match, the Warriors made their final journey across the ditch to face a Canberra Raiders side already guaranteed a top-four finish.
Despite the Raiders resting several players, the Warriors were still expected to be handed yet another defeat in what has been a horrible season.
The Warriors did not get memo however as they came from behind to defeat the Raiders 24-20.

2019 has been a horrible year with the Warriors failing to deliver much on the paddock, but it was good to see the team end the season with a victory.
Although the Raider rested some key players, the Warriors also were missing several players with the likes of Peta Hiku, David Fusitu'a and Chanel Harris-Tavita missing the match. So a Warriors team that has struggled for much of the year came into this match missing a fair share of it's attacking threats, but they showed glimpses of what could have been if they were able to perform with some consistency which leads me to my positives.

I have to repeat it, but it was great to end 2019 with a win. This season hasn't been great to write about with this past month probably being the hardest month of reviews I've written.
Writing about heavy loss after heavy loss takes it's toll so this final week was a welcomed change.

The offloads are back, the Warriors had 20 offloads in this match including that highly nerve-racking last tackle run which lead to Tuivasa-Shecks try which went through 13 or 14 passes.
I have said it earlier this year, but when the Warriors throw the ball around they are tough to contain, and if they played with this style more often they would be a dangerous side to compete against so fingers crossed the Warriors embrace this style moving forward.

When the Raiders started to pull away, I began to fear the worst and expected the Warriors to drop their heads and give in like they have done for the past 6 weeks, but they kept themselves in the hunt and kept attacking right to the final whistle.
Once again, it is a case of "where has that attitude been" for the past few months, but it was good to see the Warriors show some heart.

Taane Milne had to wait until the last round, but he finally made his debut for the Warriors and had a solid outing.
He made some massive tackles and didn't overplay his hand on attack. The biggest question I have is why did Stephen Kearney wait so long to bring Milne up. His form in reserve grade has been good from what I managed to see even though most of it was in the second row, but with the Warriors centres and second rowers not really delivering, I believe he could have made an impact a lot sooner.
Moving into 2020 I would have Milne in my gameday 17.

There was still plenty of issues with this performance, though, which leads to my negatives.

The Warriors defence was painful at times, the Raiders scored several soft tries with Josh Hogdson's try just before halftime being an unfortunate spotlight on the Warriors poor marker defence.
There was even a situation in the second half where the Warriors had no markers at all as the tacklers ran back to the defensive line.
I'm not sure if the players lack confidence in each other or are just not talking in the defensive line, but I'm sure it is one of the facets of their game that is at the top of the list to be fixed this upcoming preseason.

The Warriors error rate is still too high, with 8 errors in this match.
I'm a realist and know that if the Warriors throw the ball around like I want to see them do, then the error rate is going to go up.
It's a double edge sword, but just a little bit more respect for the football would keep me handy.

The penalties were still too high for me also, some of the calls were a bit rough but the Warriors have been playing the game long enough to know they have to play to the whistle and make changes depending on how the referees are calling the match.
Having two referees with two different viewpoints doesn't make thing easy, but if the Warriors want to be successful, they need to learn to adapt.

My last negative isn't to do with the Warriors but is about Hudson Young and his eye-gouging of Adam Pompey.
I cannot comprehend why players continue to do things like this when there are cameras directed at every inch of the field.
Young has already been suspended for five weeks this season for eye-gouging and is certain to be looking at possibly double that this time around.
There's no need for this kind of act in the NRL, and hopefully, this will be the wakeup call he needs.

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My Warrior of the match goes to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Tuivasa-Sheck form continued with another strong outing, dominating the Warriors side on attack and saving the team with several key defensive plays.
His ability to keep the opposition second-guessing when he has the ball in hand contributes so much to the Warriors scoring ability, and that was evident in that passage of play that lead to his try. He touched the ball three times in that crazy last tackle play, and you could see the Raiders panic each time he got the ball.
The scary thought is where the Warriors would be without RTS, and hopefully, the team improves sooner rather than later because if they don't, they may lose him.

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
My Warrior to improve goes to Isaiah Papali'i.
Papali'i hasn't had the greatest season, and this game was no different, he made plenty of tackles but also missed several important ones that lead to Raiders scoring opportunities.
Papali'i is still very young, and I'm sure he has learnt a lot this season it will serve him well in the future as he grows into a great player for the Warriors.

Well, the season is done now and there no game to preview for next week, but there is the Warriors members forum tomorrow night.
The forum will be interesting after such a disappointing year, and I will be intrigued to see what Cameron George, Stephen Kearney and co say to the members that attend, I'm sure they will have some tough questions directed at them, and hopefully, they give some honest answers.

I aim to have my season review up next week, and it will follow a similar format to how all my reviews have been, with my thoughts on the season overall, players of the year, players to improve, players that are leaving and ideas on where to go from here.
Will be tough to write, but I'm looking forward to putting an end on the 2019 season.

So that's my take on a better Round 25, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Would you have Taane Milne is your 17 for 2020?
Who was your player of the match?
Going into the preseason, what would be your first significant change?
Is there anything you want me to discuss or mention in my upcoming season review?

Monday, 2 September 2019

NZ Warriors Round 24: Warriors woes continue in last home hit out

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After last weeks embarrassing outing against the Cronulla Sharks, the Warriors made their way back to Mount Smart Stadium for the last time in 2019 to face the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The Warriors gave their fans hope after a close first half, but it wasn't to be as the Rabbitohs were too strong handing the Warriors a 31-10 defeat.

To be honest, this result was what I expected when I arrived at the Stadium.
Stephen Kearney was vocal during the week, demanding more effort from his side after back to back thrashings and for the first 50 minutes of this match the Warriors did show effort, but they were not able to keep that going for the whole 80 minutes.

The Warriors showed the best and the worst they had to offer in this performance, at times manhandling the Rabbitohs massive pack but then letting themselves down with poor discipline and substandard defence.
Poor attacking options as the pressure mounted did the Warriors no favours and must be one of the top priorities to fix in the upcoming months as the club prepares for 2020.

It was by no means great performance, but after the past month, it was at least an improvement which shows how poor the Warriors have been in 2019 when a 21 point defeat is an improvement.
I think the team and fans alike will be looking at putting 2019 behind them after the last match against the Raiders, but it is only the beginning as there is plenty of work to do to get this broken club back in order.

There wasn't much, but I do have some positives from the match.

The Warriors showed intensity once again. Unfortunately, it was only in patches, but the Warriors were driving the Rabbitohs ball carriers backwards and really forcing them to work to get out of their own half.
If the Warriors could deliver that intensity for every tackle of every set for 80 minutes, then these heavy defeats would be a thing of the past.

The Warriors first half showed that they could compete with a top-four side, they were down 14-0 halfway through the first half but bounced back quickly with the only tries they scored in the match.
When the opposition piles on points the Warriors have been found guilty this season of dropping their heads, so it was good to see them attempt to keep in the match, admittedly only for 50minutes.

My biggest concern going into this match was that Damien Cook was going to have a field day against the Warriors.
All year the Warriors ruck defence has been exposed, but they were able to keep Cook relatively quiet if Cook was able to play his typical game then I'm confident that the score would have been significantly larger.

Unfortunately, there were several problems in this performance, which leads me to my negatives.

It was good to see the intensity return, but the Warriors only showed up for 50 minutes.
The NRL is a fierce competition where any team can win on their day, but to do so, they need to play for the entire 80 minutes.
Warriors need to also address this in the upcoming offseason if 2020 is going to be better.

The Warriors discipline was a crucial component in why they were unable to get the win against the Rabbitohs.
Whenever the Warriors gave away silly penalties, the Rabbitohs twisted the knife by taking easy penalty kicks, increasing their lead and dominating possession.
You can try to blame the Referee decisions all you like, but the Warriors need to play to the whistle.

Despite the Warriors starting defensive strong in the first half, they appeared to get lazy in the second half.
They were dropping off tackles and not wrapping the ball carriers up which allowed the Rabbitohs to utilise second phase football which just torn the Warriors defensive line to shreds.

The Warriors fifth tackle options still need plenty of work.
There was really only a handful of good kicks on the last tackle, but the majority of the last play options were woeful kicks or running and dying with the ball.
I still think the only way to improve this facet of the Warriors game is two have Kodi and Chanel Harris-Tavita in the halves together.

The off-field circus continued this week with news that the joint owners are fighting amongst themselves.
As I said last week something at the club is broken. Everything starts at the top so if the owners cannot get on the same page, it is no surprise that Cameron George, Stephen Kearney and the players appear to not be singing off the same songsheet.
There is plenty of work to be done, and I'm sure the club will be bombarded with plenty of questions relating to this at the upcoming member's forum.

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My Warrior of the match goes to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
2019 has been poor, but RTS is one of a select few that can hold his head up high.
This wasn't his best outing, but he was still head and shoulders above the rest of his team. Always dangerous with the ball in hand and he saved his side with several desperate defensive displays.
Hopefully, for his sake, the rest of the team will help him in 2020 as he cannot continue to carry this side for another season.

Copyright Photo: Photosport
My Warrior to improve goes to Kodi Nikorima.
Kodi showed some glimpses of promise in the first half, mainly his nice run and kick for Ken Maumalo's try but he disappeared in the second half.
The pack didn't help matters, but the Warriors really needed Kodi to give the backline some attacking options, and he just didn't deliver.
After the match Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett endorsed Nikorima as a valuable player that has not shown his best yet due to the mid-year switch and that with a full preseason under his belt we will see an improved Kodi for 2020.
I genuinely hope the super coach is right.

Im sure the players and fans alike will be looking forward to this season-ending, but there is still one game to go.
Round 24 sees the Warriors head to the Australian capital to face the Canberra Raiders.
The Raiders have been on a tear in 2019 and have already humbled the Warriors and will look at doing it again to cement their top-four spot.
I am hopeful that the Warriors will show up to play and make a statement in their last match of the year, but I can't see them defeating the Raiders, so I'm picking the Raiders to win by 30.

So that was slightly improved but ultimately disappointing Round 24 and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Who was your player of the match?
With the issues on and off the field, how would you attempt to fix the club?
Now Koroisau off the table now, which off-contract player would you be targetting (if any)?
What is your score prediction for the final match of the season?

Monday, 26 August 2019

NZ Warriors Round 23: Humiliation in the Shire

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Wishing to put their horrible Round 22 performance behind them. The Warriors were once again in Sydney to face a Cronulla Sharks team desperate to keep their playoff dreams alive and looking for revenge after their close defeat to the New Zealand Side.
Unlike the Round 18 clash in Wellington, however, this match was a onesided affair as the Sharks heavily defeated the Warriors 42-16.

Well, the joy of being a Warriors fan continues with the second massive defeat in a row, I feel like I could just cut and paste from last weeks review and call it a day as the Warriors offered the exact same poor performance.
Last week I pointed to Gerard Beale's injury and the teams position changes being a reason for the pitiful performance but this week the Warriors were as close to full strength as they have been in weeks and they still offered very little in the form of competition against a team that was was reduced to a two-man bench.

The forwards minus a select few could not compete upfront, and this flowed through to the rest of the team with the halves offering very little in regards to last tackle options.
Issac Luke and Kodi Nikorima were unable to rush out of dummy half, and this lead to the boring one out football the Warriors have delivered for the majority of 2020, completing a high percentage of sets is great but what's the point if you are unable to score points.

Fans know the season is done for and are just looking for pride and passion.
If the Warriors went down swinging against these top eight teams, you might be able to stomach the losses a little, but the Warriors have been bullied for the past three defeats. With games against the Rabbitohs and Raiders to end their season, I don't see that trend stopping.

This team or in fact the club appears to be broken and if changes are not made, be it roster or office changes then 2020 will undoubtedly deliver similar results.

Now there wasn't much to praise, so let's just get into my positives from the match.

The only time the Warriors looked good in this match was when they were able to offload, I have said it before, and I will say it now when the Warriors can play second-phase football they are a hard team to stop.
If the forwards can pop the ball out to Tuivasa-Sheck, Nikorima or Harris-Tavita running off the shoulder, you are almost guaranteed points.
With the season well and truly over I hope to see the players throw the ball around, bring back that exciting style of play to convince the fans to show up in 2020.

My last positive is that there are only two weeks left in the Warriors season.
You can call me facetious, but 2019 has been a tough watch, don't get me wrong I love writing about the Warriors, but I am looking forward to having a break in a few weeks after I complete my season review ( a review Im not looking forward too).
A lot of work needs to happen to improve this club by 2020, but the upcoming offseason should provide some interesting stories, I'm sure.

That was all that came to mind for my positives, so onto the negatives.

I praised the Warriors for their offloads, but their weak defence allowed the Sharks to offload almost at will and Cronulla punished them for it.
The Warriors have conceded 40+ points in their past three defeats, and that is down to their poor defence.
Defence is all about attitude and effort, and the Warriors are lacking in both, the need to ensure that the wrap up the ball carrier in the last two rounds if they want to stop the one-way traffic.

There were times in this match were the Warriors competed, they showed up in patches defensively, driving the Sharks runners backwards and showing some promise on attack but to compete in the NRL you need to play for 80minutes, part-timers don't win premierships.

Before the game, Cameron George spoke in the media about his views on the season and the fact that players are not pulling their weight.
He also said that they may be discussions with some of these players about their futures, Nikorima came out later in the week saying that George should say it to the players directly instead of the media and Kearney also came out and said the George should leave that talk to him instead.
Now I think what George said is actually what a lot of fans have been saying or at least thinking anyway but hearing the reactions from Nikorima and Kearney, it is clear to that tensions are building within the club, and we may well see some significant changes in a few weeks.

Speaking of Kearney, he delivered another pearl with his bench, dropping Bunty Afoa for Blake Ayshford.
Bunty has been great off the bench this season and not having him on the pine was a colossal mistake and giving Ayshford 9 minutes was just a waste of a spot.
If Kearney continues to prove that he cannot learn how to use a bench, then I struggle to see him being the man that gets the Warriors out of the hole they are in.

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My Warrior of the match goes to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
It was slim pickings, but I had to go with RTS, he didn't have the best game himself, but he was still head and shoulders above the rest of the squad.
You know that Roger is going to give 100% out there, but he really needs the rest of the team to at least meet him in the middle.
Fingers crossed the team gets on the same page as Roger sooner rather than later.

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
My Warrior to improve actually goes to the rest of the team.
May sound harsh, but besides a handful of players (Roger, Burr, Ah Mau, Jazz, Ken and Hiku) the rest of the players left a lot to be desired.
It felt like they had given up and were just going through the motions and counting down to the seasons' end.
As mentioned above the Warriors only have pride to play for now, so how about showing the fans some of that pride.

Round 24 sees the Warriors return home for the last time in 2019 to face the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
As much as I would like to say the Warriors will come out and put on a great performance to thank the home crowd for what has been a brutal year at Mount Smart.
I just don't see it happening, the Warriors have shown that they struggle to defend the ruck area and they are facing Damien Cook who excels at taking advantage of slow markers, and I think he is going to have a field day.
I hope im wrong, but I just don't see the Warriors walking away victors on Friday night, so im picking the Rabbitohs to win by 22.

So that was my take on an awful Round 23, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

What changes would you make to club, either onfield or off?
Do you have a player of the match?
Do you think these heavy defeats will continue for the last two weeks?
What is your score prediction for the last home game?