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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

NZ Warriors Round 4 Review: Warriors Fumble away chances in third straight defeat

Copyright Photo: Paul Seiser /
After claiming that last week's performance was the Warriors worst of 2017, the Warriors went out and proved me wrong by putting on a woeful display in their first outing on Australian soil losing 26-12 to the St George Illawarra Dragons.
In a milestone game for Simon Mannering where he broke Stacey Jones record of most games played for the Warriors with 262 matches, the Warriors should have been buoyed by the occasion and ready to go, but in reality, they barely made it out of the gate.

The much-anticipated debut of Kieran Foran was delayed last minute when he pulled his hamstring in the final warm up.
With no halves cover with them in Australia Tui Lolohea was slotted into the halves with Blake Ayshford coming into the centres and David Fusitu'a moving out to the wing.
Both teams gave away silly penalties early on, and both teams took the easy penalty goals.
Then after some poor ball protection, the Warriors soft defence was in full effect with Paul Vaughan busting through for the first try of the game.
More handling errors lead to the Dragons second try when Josh McCrone scored in the corner.
The Warriors continued to drop the ball every chance they were given, and the Dragons took advantage with Josh Dugan strolling through the Warriors defensive line to get the Dragons ahead 20-2.
The Warriors forwards lacked serious punch against the giant Dragons pack but with the injection of Sam Lisone and James Gavet the Warriors started to show some fight and when Gavet came close to scoring Issac Luke pounced at the opportunity the slow markers gave him and scored.
The tide turned a little in the Warriors favour, but every time it looked like they were going to break through they dropped the ball leaving the score 20-8 at halftime.
Josh Dugan made an error at kick off, and the Warriors piled on more pressure leading to a try to Ken Maumalo in the corner,
More back and forth followed between the two sides until Tim Lafai sliced the defence and scored the Dragons fourth and final try with the game ending 26-12.

Copyright Photo: Paul Seiser /

My Warrior of the match goes to James Gavet, in his first outing for 2017 he was one of a handful of players out there that was making good runs and putting pressure on the Dragons forwards.
He brought a positive attitude that this side sorely needs, I feel that he should be taking Charlie Gubb's position in the Warriors 17 as he offers more on both attack and defence.
The fans always go on about the Warriors needing more mongrel, and he has it in spades without giving away needless penalties.

Copyright Photo: Paul Seiser /

My Warrior who needs to improve is Tui Lolohea, this game was yet another example of why he is not a half.
Stupid last tackle options and in some cases silly forth tackle options littered his performance.
In his defence, he wasn't expecting to play in the halves, but that is the reality of professional football.
He still looks like a deer in headlights and with the talented players currently in reserve grade pushing for spots his time in first grade may be numbered.

This game was dreadful to watch, the ball handling was embarrassing (19 errors in total), and the defensive line was slow and unresponsive, there were so many times when all the Dragons had to do was change the angle of their run, and the Warriors just opened up.
It was really no surprise that they missed 31 tackles.
The team ran onto the ball with no depth, and when you play so flat, you have absolutely no go forward to unleash the backs.
Stephen Kearney needs to take action now, a 1-3 record is something you cannot gloss over with cliche coachspeak.
Does he stick with his current side or make some changes?
I would be making changes now to give the reserve graders a shot and to wake up the top side players that are not performing.
I would swap Tui Lolohea for Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Solomona Kata for Blake Ayshford and Charlie Gubb for James Gavet if I were in charge.
The Warriors return to Mt Smart to face the Gold Coast Titans.
The Titans haven't looked that great so far this season, so now is the time for the Warriors to turn the corner and get their season back on track.
I predict a decent win from the Warriors here winning by 12.

So that was a forgettable Round 4, and as per usual, I will leave you with some questions.

What players would you look at dropping?
Do you think the Warriors can turn the season around?
Is it time to give up on the Lolohea experiment?
What would be your advice to Stephen Kearney?

Let me know what you think, and I will talk to you all next week.

Friday, 24 March 2017

NZ Warriors Round 3 Review: Trip down South goes to the Dogs

Copyright Photo: Teaukura Moetaua / Getty Images
After last week's loss to the Melbourne Storm, the Warriors made the journey to Dunedin to face the 0-2 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs have not looked impressive this season, and with the Warriors enjoying their third week in a row playing in New Zealand, they were expected to get a good win in front of a league starved South Island crowd.
Unfortunately for Warriors fans the Bulldogs got their first win of the year defeating the Warriors 24-12.

The Warriors dominated possession and territory for the majority of the first half but could not take advantage of the opportunities the Bulldog's handed to them.
The Warriors finally broke through in the 16th minute when Bodene Thompson dived on a loose ball in the in-goal.
The Bulldogs struck back with tries to Moses Mbye and Brett Morris to go into the half leading 10-6.
The Warriors continued to exhort pressure on the Bulldogs defensive line but just could not break the line.
Around the 60 minute mark the Warriors snatched the lead back after Shaun Johnson and Bodene Thompson combined to break the defence and send Shaun over to lead the game 12-10.
In a repeat of the first half, the Bulldogs took control of the match in the final quarter and ran in two more tries to first half scorer Brett Morris and Marcelo Montoya to put the game out of contention for the Warriors 24-12.

This was the Warriors worst display in 2017, they had no ideas on the attacking front.
When the only plays they have are an overused wrap around play and giving it to Shaun Johnson and hoping for the best, they are setting themselves up for failure.
The forwards lost the wrestle up front against the large Bulldogs pack and the resulting slower play the balls put the Warriors immediately on the back-foot.
There was no communication between the players which lead to plenty of misreads, this resulted in the Warriors missing 24 tackles.
I'm not sure what Stephen Kearney is going to do with this side.
Yes, this team was missing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, but the Warriors need to perform as a team instead of relying on individuals.
Players like Issac Luke, Tuimoala Lolohea, Solomona Kata and Charlie Gubb need to be put on notice if their performances don't improve they need a wake-up call and a spell in the lower grades.
The Warriors Intrust Super Premiership side has been playing well, and there are many players down there deserving a call-up (Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad being a stand out so far this season).

This game was sloppy, and the Warriors really needed to take advantage, but due to their lack of intensity, they could not get it done.
It is only round 3, and it's early days, and there is plenty of time to right the ship and get the season back on track.
However, if they continue falling off tackles and running sideways, well then we all better prepare for a long season.

My Warrior of the game.... well I haven't selected one, I don't think anyone deserves to be praised for this performance.

Copyright Photo: Teaukura Moetaua / Getty Images

My Warrior who needs to improve is Issac Luke.
Issac had a lacklustre showing against the Bulldogs, wayward passes and dropped play the balls littered his performance.
It just looked to me that his head wasn't in the game, he appeared lazy and not interested in being there.
A positive for the Warriors is that Nathaniel Roache made his return from injury last weekend so if Issac continues his downward slide, Roache needs to take his place.
Maybe with the threat of another hooker breathing down his neck, Issac will pull his socks up and contribute to the Warriors cause once again.

So the Warrior's are now 1-2 for the season.
On the plus side, their draw is favourable as long as they improve their game-day execution.
On the other hand, they face the St George Illawarra Dragons this round.
The Warriors have an abysmal record against the Dragons, having only won 5 matches in 24 clashed with only one victory on Australian soil at the Jubilee Oval, thankfully for the Warriors, this is where they are playing this Sunday.
The Warriors should have Roger Tuivasa-Sheck back from concussion as well as the possible Warriors debut for Kieran Foran.
Will these two automatically guarantee a win for the Warriors?
No of course not but if this side starts to work together and stop playing laterally they stand a good chance of leaving Australia with the victory.
I'm picking a bounce back and the Warriors to win by 8.

So that was Round 3, and as per usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Do you have a Warrior of the day?
What would you do with Issac Luke?
What players would you bring up from reserve grade?
Are you concerned about the Warriors lack of attack?

Let me know what you think, and I will talk to you all next week.

Friday, 17 March 2017

NZ Warriors Round 2 Review : A Storm hits Mount Smart

Copyright Photo: Renee McKay /
Auckland was hit with a barrage of rain in the week leading up to the Warriors second round match
up against the Melbourne Storm.
On Friday night with the torrential rain still hitting Mount Smart, a brave 9,811 fans faced the elements to watch this clash as the Warriors went down 26-10.

The Storm scored early through Kenny Bromwich, but the Warriors didn't take long to strike back, scoring two tries in 3 minutes through Tuimoala Lolohea and Shaun Johnson to have them trailing 12-10 at halftime.
Unfortunately, these were the only points the Warriors scored as the Storm kept being the relentless side they are known for, and as their defence held the Warriors out, they eventually ran away with three more tries by Cheyse Blair, Suliasi Vunivalu and Cooper Cronk.
The Warriors lost Roger Tuivasa-Sheck late in the first half with a concussion, and it appeared to change the game.
In my opinion, once Roger left the field Shaun Johnson seemed to vanish after inserting himself into the action repeatably in the first half.
Poor decisions on the last tackle options came into the game, and against the consistent Storm, you just cannot afford to make mistakes as they will punish you for it.
A troublesome play for me was when Issac Luke tried to sneak over the try-line on the last tackle when Shaun Johnson was calling for it with a clear overlap.
Defence reverted back to 2016 form as the Warriors missed 31 tackles if you miss that many tackles you are immediately playing on the back foot.
There was a positive. However, The Warriors completed 86% of their sets which in these horrid conditions was pleasing to see.

My Warrior of the game goes to Simon Mannering.
Simon was, well simply put Simon was Simon, Leading the Warriors once again in tackles and tightening up the middle of the defensive line.
You definitely notice the difference in this side when Simon isn't there, and hopefully, he can stay healthy and continue to add much-needed starch to the Warriors defensive line.

Copyright Photo: Renee McKay /
My Warrior who needs to improve is Tuimoala Lolohea.
Tuimoala started the game well with a nice try but after a slip up in the literal sense of the word, his confidence took a hit and he just never came back from that.
In a bizarre move, Stephen Kearney moved Lolohea to fullback when Roger went off instead of the more suitable David Fusitu'a.
This didn't help Tuimoala, but with the squad, the Warriors have he needs to lift his game several levels if he wants to stay playing first grade.

Putting the game into perspective, the Warriors did improve from their last outing against the Storm where they went down 42-0, but they do have a long way to go before they can be in talks for playoff football.
If the Warriors can keep the completion rate high but decrease the missed tackles and improve the last tackle options, then they will get themselves back on track, and they need to take advantage of the favourable draw they have this season.

This week the Warriors are travelling down to Dunedin to face the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs are yet to achieve victory this season, and the Warriors need to strike while they Bulldogs are not in-sync.
Kieran Foran is not ready to make his debut for the Warriors yet so misses this match-up, Roger did not pass the midweek concussion test and will also not play in this game.
Kearney has yet again named Tuimoala at fullback but has named Manu Vatuvei to make his return.
I am still not confident in Tuimoala out the back, but in the covered stadium, he may have the favourable conditions to help him succeed.
The Bulldogs have a big forward pack, but their back-line has taken a hit with injuries, and their halves are not clicking.
I am picking the Warriors to win by 12 on Friday, taking full advantage of a South Island crowd starved of Live NRL football.

So with Round 2 complete, I will leave you with some questions.

Who would you move to fullback in Roger's absence?
When Foran is healthy, what would you do with Ata Hingano?
Are there any changes you would make to the 17?
Are you enjoying the Warriors playing on Fridays?

Let me know what you think, and I will talk to you all next week.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

NZ Warriors Round 1 Review : Round 1 Hoodoo broken in Ugly Win

Copyright Photo: Renee McKay /
The Vodafone Warriors kicked off the 2017 NRL Season at Mount Smart Stadium for the first time since 2009 with a win over the Newcastle Knights.
The team had a lot of expectations leading into this game against last year's wooden spooners, and although it was ugly, they got the victory and the two points.

The Warriors started the game slow and the errors that plagued this side last season returned with the Warriors dropping the ball on their first tackle on their first set for the season.
Passes were not sticking, and it seemed that the Warriors had bought into the general consensus that the Knights were going to be easy beats and early on in this game they were punished.
The Knights were the first to score with Peter Matautia leaping over Tui Lolohea to catch a pinpoint kick on the try line.
The pressure continued as the Warriors held the Knights out and finally started to click with the first of three David Fuistu'a tries.
A try to Solomone Kata helped the Warriors ease to a 20-8 lead at halftime.
The wheels started to wobble in the second half when the Warriors lost Simon Mannering and Issac Luke to injuries.
Losing these two players severely weakened the Warriors middle and the Knights started to take advantage of this and mounted a comeback.
A feeling of "Oh no here we go again" began to fill Mount Smart Stadium as it looked like the Warriors were about to yet again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as they let the Knights score soft tries and regain the lead 22-20 with 13 minutes to go.
The fans in the Stadium sat with baited breath waiting for any someone to step up and save the day, and that man came in the form of Ryan Hoffman who forced his way over the try-line.
With that score, the Warriors were ahead again and held the Knights out for the final 7 minutes to finally break their Round 1 Hoodoo.

Copyright Photo: Renee McKay /
My Warrior of the game goes to David Fusitu'a, he had another strong game, scoring three tries is a great feat but I'm more impressed with the 14 from 14 tackles.
David's big frame, athletic ability and magnetic attraction to the try line (8 tries in 8 games at centre a telling stat) make him one of the key figures in this Warriors backline.
I believe that if David and Tui can be given time to work together in a centre wing combo instead of being moved around every week, they will start to click and cause real headaches for any team.

My Player who needs to improve goes to Ken Maumalo.
Ken's first touch resulted in a knock on, and Ken struggled to get back into the game.
He did have a few good run's later on in the match but his confidence had taken a serious knock, and when his confidence is done his performance drops.
He has potential to be a damaging winger in the mould of Manu Vatuvei, he just needs to relax and get the basics right and success will follow.

This game was a mixed bag, it was great being back at a live Warriors game, but the performance was not what I expected.
I don't believe the Knights are as bad as they were last season but this was a game where the Warriors should have made a statement and piled on the points.
But they Warriors did show heart, last season if the Warriors lost a lead late in a game their heads would drop and they would give up on themselves.
But in this game when they lost the lead they just kept pushing the Knights are trying to make something happen, that is all I really ask for from the Warriors, no game will be perfect, but if they keep pushing themselves to the very end, good things will come.
But then again maybe this is just what the Warriors needed, a tougher game to let it sink into the team and fans alike that there is still a lot of work to do no win is ever guaranteed.

There were negatives in this performance, ball handling was still a big issue, and with the loss of Mannering the defence took a serious hit, and the Warriors were exposed.
Having a suitable interchange bench is a must as Bodene Thompson being used as a Hooker did not help the side and they lost the quick ball that was proving so successful in the first half.
Issac can play 80 minutes, but you need a hooker on the bench just in case, with Jazz and Nathaniel still under an injury cloud they need to bring Erin Clark onto the bench.

There were also positives in this match, however.
Shaun started to show more intent and attacked the line more often which broke the Knights defensive line up and made it easier for the likes of Fusitu'a and Kata to score.
The props made more impact for the side and eased the pressure on the impressive backline.
Ryan Hoffman had one of his best games for the Warriors, he really stepped up in the absence of Simon, maybe the pressure of being captain being taken off his shoulders has helped him focus on his performance or perhaps the fact that he is now fighting for an NRL contract has improved his performance.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck played well at the back, and it is nice to see the Warriors with a fullback that is safe under the high ball.
Ata Hingano had another good showing and more than held his own out there, he is still very young and has a long way to go, but he did not become a liability and will be looking at cementing a spot in the 17 long term.
Overall the negatives are not hard to fix, and this team knows how to score points, so I'm still confident that this will be a good season for the Warriors.

The Warriors have a 5-day turnaround until they face the Melbourne Storm and are sweating on the health of Simon Mannering, Issac Luke and Charlie Gubb.
It sounds like Simon and Charlie will be okay, but Issac is still in doubt.
Playing the Melbourne Storm will be tough, and if the Warriors play in a similar style to how they played the Knights, they will be in for a rough night.
But the Storm had a tough battle in Round 1, and with the loss of Jesse Bromwich, this may be the best time to face the Storm.
If the Warriors can eliminate their unforced errors and tighten up their defence, I believe they can take it to the Storm in what could be an exciting match up.
I'm picking the Warriors to take this match by 6.

So now that Round 1 is all over, I will leave you with some questions.

What did you think of the Warriors Round 1 performance?
Are there any changes you would make to the Warriors game-day 17?
Who was your standout performer?
What's your score prediction against the Storm?

Let me know what you think, and I will talk to you all next week.