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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

NZ Warriors Round 16 Review: Warriors Mt Smart form continues over Toothless Dogs

Copyright Photo: Renee McKay /
After the bye in Round 15, the Warriors returned to Mount Smart to face the Canterbury Bulldogs needing a win to keep their playoff aspirations alive.
The Warriors have turned Mount Smart into a fortress in 2017 suffering only one loss to the table-topping Melbourne Storm, and this round was no exception with the Warriors winning 21-14.

It wasn’t a pretty performance from the Warriors, but it was hard fought, both sides were desperately seeking a win, and it showed.
The Warriors had a few hiccups early in the match perhaps due to Shaun Johnson taking the lead in Kieran Foran’s absence, but they turned in a clinical performance completing 82% of their sets.
Once Shaun and Ata started to gel the team began to threaten the Bulldogs line, defensively they showed a tough, determined edge that has been lacking for most of the season.
The Warriors only scored three tries this week, but the first try to Ken Maumalo deserves a special mention, after an ankle tap he had the presence to get himself back up and showed both pace and strength to get the long distance try.
I have been calling him Mini Manu all year but this was a try that was reminiscent of Manu from a few seasons ago, if Ken keeps performing the way he has for the past month it is fair to say that he has taken that wing spot from Manu for good.
James Gavet’s return was welcomed, and he added serious starch to the forward pack and his stiff defence lead to the Bulldogs losing their heads and ultimately Josh Jackson for 10 minutes.
But with James return we also saw the exit of Issac Luke with a dislocated shoulder; Nathaniel Roache took the opportunity of more minutes in his stride and put in an excellent performance.
The Warriors forwards bullied the Bulldogs pack, and Roache took advantage with several sniping runs.
The close score was not reflective of the dominance the Warriors had on the field.
Three additional tries could have been scored but were denied by the bunker, I think at least two of those should have been given, but thankfully for the Warriors, they didn’t have to rely on the bunker to win this match.
By the time Shaun slotted a field goal the game was well and truly over, and the 21-14 win brings them only two points away from the top 8.

Copyright Photo: Andrew Cornaga /
My Warrior of the game was tough this week with great performances from several players, but I am giving it to Simon Mannering.
Simon gets ignore every round by me when it comes to my Warriors of the game simply because I have grown used to his great performances.
But I couldn’t ignore him after this performance, 60 tackles is impressive, but Simon also ran for 155 metres and didn’t miss a single tackle.
Simon leaves everything out on that field, and I’m hoping that this attitude of his is filtering throughout the rest of this team and rubbing off on all the young players in this squad.

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My Warrior who needs to improve goes to Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, a bit of a hard choice as all of the team had a generally good performance, but Charnze made a few unforced errors and didn’t have the best day.
It is early days in CNK’s career, and after playing quite well since his debut it was only a matter of time for his form to take a dip, confidence is the key, and he will have plenty of chances to regain it when the Warriors play Manly this weekend.

The Warriors are taking full advantage of the State of Origin period yet again but now have to travel to Perth to face the Manly Sea Eagles; the Sea Eagles have been performing well for the past month and will be a tough match.
Throw in the fact that they are playing in Perth where the Warriors have never won, and it looks to be a tough night out for the Warriors.
The Warriors have named Kieran Foran to return at five-eighth and Nathaniel Roache to start at hooker with Issac Luke not fit to return from his shoulder injury.
This likely means that Ata Hingano will take a bench spot with Albert Vete, James Gavet and Bunty Afoa to fill in the other spots with Sam Lisone being ruled out with a family engagement.
If the Warriors are going to have any chance in this match, they just need to do all they basics efficiently.
The Forwards have actually started to perform the past few weeks, so they need to continue running in groups and bullying the opposition.
The loss of Issac isn’t ideal, but the Warriors just have to front up in his absence, Roache is a talent and very dangerous out of dummy half, so I expect to see some damaging runs from him.
With the Warriors having another bye after this match they can truly throw everything they have and then some this week and get the win. Unfortunately, I can’t shake the Perth factor, and I’m going with a Sea Eagles win by 10.

So that was satisfying Round 16, and as per usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Do you think the Warriors were hard done by with some of the Bunkers no try decisions?
Are the Warriors starting to find form or is this just the usual origin run they always have?
Has Ken Maumalo done enough to lock in the wing spot for the foreseeable future?
What is your score prediction for the match against Manly?

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

NZ Warriors Round 14 Review: Warriors front up in Hoffman Milestone

Copyright Photo: Scott P /
Well, the Warriors have one less Monkey on their back after their Round 14 trip to the Gold Coast.
The Warriors who have yet to taste victory away from Mt Smart in 2017 really needed to get the job done against the Titans and in Ryan Hoffman’s 300th NRL match the Warriors delivered with a 34-12 win.

It wasn’t a perfect game by any means, but the Warriors played with more desire than we have seen for quite a few rounds, the Titans may have scored first, but the Warriors dominated the first half scoring four tries to one.
The Warriors pressured the Titans defensive line repeatedly with the Titans having trouble containing the Warriors front rowers and large wingers.
Ken Maumalo had another impressive showing, his confidence is growing, and his performances are improving as a result, and hopefully, there is still more to come from the youngster.
The injection of Sam Lisone and Albert Vete from the bench helped the Warriors keep the Titans on the ropes, and except for the first 10 minutes, the Titans were never in this game.
The Warriors brought the offload out again and showed that when given license to throw the ball around they really put teams to the sword.
Defensively the Warriors upped their performance also, reducing their missed tackles to 21. A number they still need to improve, but it seems to be on the mend.
Putting it simply, the Warriors ran with purpose on attack, reduced their errors and tackled with intent, and if they perform in that mindset, they are a hard team to get past.

Copyright Photo: Scott P /
My player of the day goes to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Roger has been disappointing for the past few rounds but he delivered in this match, his ability to get the Warriors out of their own red zone on kick returns is a fundamental component of this side's chances for victory each and every game.
His ability to break the line has been sorely missing but he appears to be coming back into form, and with the season on a knife edge the Warriors need his form now more than ever.

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My Warrior who needs to improve goes to regular offender Solomona Kata.
Defensively he is still a liability but what he offers on attack has normally been enough to counter his weaknesses, this year however offensively he has been a mere shadow of himself.
Opposition teams have figured him out, and his barnstorming runs have become a thing of the past.
He has loyalty from Kearney right now, but if his current form continues to slide, he will need to go find his confidence in the lower grades.

It was great to see the team put on a good performance in Ryan Hoffman's 300th game, the joy and unity the team showed after Ryan had slotted the last conversion of the match was the first time in months that these players actually looked like a team.
This was an enjoyable game to watch, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, interest in the Warriors seems to be at a level of indifference right now, and the only way the Warriors can get people interested again is by winning.
This game isn't a miracle cure for the season as the Warriors still have a long way to go, but if they can start winning on the road, it will make things a lot easier.
Stephen Kearney made the bold call to stick with his players that haven't been performing and this week it paid off with the win but I'm still not convinced that he knows what he is doing, but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I have been critical of Stephen Kearney's interchange selections, and he had me scratching my head again with Ata Hingano being named to join the forwards on the pine.
This ended up working in the Warriors favour when Kieran Foran went off with a quad injury and Ata slotted in well and showed his pace running onto a lovely ball from Shaun Johnson to score the first but definitely not his last NRL try.
The question is how would Ata have been used if Foran didn't get injured? 
My guess is that it would have been another game where a player sat on the bench for the entire match, which Kearney needs to stop doing.
Kieran Foran's injury doesn’t look that serious, and thankfully the Warriors first bye round is happening this week, so he has more time to recover.

After this bye round the Warriors are back to Mount Smart for Friday Night Football against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
It goes without saying, but the Warriors need another victory here, and I think they can do it if they bring the mindset they brought for this match, so I'm picking the Warriors to win by 12.

So that was a more optimistic round 14, and as per usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Do you think Foran will be ready for the Bulldogs?
Is there still a chance of playoff football for the Warriors?
What are your thoughts on Ata Hingano?
What would you do with Solomona Kata?

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

NZ Warriors Round 13 Review: Warriors Woeful against Wounded Eels

Copyright Photo: Paul Seiser /
The Warriors travelled back across the ditch to ANZ Stadium to face the Parramatta Eels.
Confidence was up again after last rounds victory over the Broncos, and the Warriors were looking at getting their first win on Australian soil in 2017.
However, it was not to be as the Parramatta Eels toughed it out through multiple injuries and kept the Warriors on the search for that first win away from Mt Smart in 2017.

The Eels didn't long to stamp their mark on this match with tries to Kirisome Auva’a and Josh Hoffman in the first 10 minutes.
The Warriors clawed their way back into the game with tries to Simon Mannering and Ken Maumalo in the 19th and 26th minutes.
Shaun Johnson made an error on the last tackle moments later which resulted in a try to Semi Radradra at the other end of the field, making the score 18-12 at the break.
It took 16 minutes, but the Eels were over first in the second half with a try to Tepai Moeroa.
The Eels were losing players and by the 60th-minute mark were down to a one man bench when the Warriors took advantage of the tiring pack with a try to Ryan Hoffman.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck scored in the 71st minute to close the gap to two points before Clinton Gutherson scored in the dying stages of the match to break Warriors fans hearts with a 32-24 loss.

Copyright Photo: Paul Seiser /
My player of the day goes to Issac Luke.
Issac Luke had one of better performances in this match, with James Gavet and Ben Matulino bending the defensive line Issac was able to take advantage with lots of runs out of dummy half.
With the Eels defence getting tired due to the mounting injuries Issac was having a field day average almost 13 metres for each run he made.
Defensively he was sound also with 33 tackles, and only 1 missed in the match.
If the rest of the team played at the level that Issac played in this game, well then they wouldn't be in the dire situation that they're currently in.

Copyright Photo: Paul Seiser /
My player that needs to improve goes to Shaun Johnson.
Last week when the critics were calling Shaun out, he addressed the criticism and vowed to be better and in fairness to him against the Broncos he showed glimpses of the Shaun Johnson we all like to watch.
That Shaun vanished this week, and the bumbling Shaun returned complete with the poor last tackle options.
His kicking game was dreadful, and he appeared lost throughout the match.
With Kieran Foran leaving and no experienced halves signed as of writing, the Warriors need Shaun to step up and start earning the money they are paying him.
I've defended him in the past as the forwards were not giving him a platform to run off, but in this match 5 of the 6 starting forwards all ran for more than 100 metres so that excuse has worn thin.

This match was hard to stomach in all honesty.
The Eels were the walking wounded, and the Warriors should have crushed them when they were down to a reduced bench, but the Warriors just couldn't get the job done.
Kearney appears to be out of his element, changes need to be made with this side with their season hanging by a thread, and yet he continues to stay the course with players that need to be dropped.
Solomona Kata, Bodene Thompson, Jacob Lillyman would all be gone if I was in charge with Ryan Hoffman close to joining them.
Charnze Nicoll Klokstad, Bunty Afoa and Toafofoa Sipley would be coming straight in for me this week.
Worse case scenario is that they perform as bad as the players they are replacing, and the Warriors are still no better, but at least it would show that the coaching staff are trying to fix the problems.
As of writing the team has been announced for this week's upcoming match and Kearney has stuck with the same side yet again bar James Gavet who is out with a hamstring injury.
Stephen Kearney sir I am feeling deja-vu from your days in Parramatta where the team was falling apart, and you offered no opinions of your own on how to fix it.
If you as a coach cannot stand up on your own two feet and make some decisions, how can you expect your players to show some grit and passion?
Heart and desire are severely lacking in this side, and this has been a problem for the past few years.
Some of the players have hit out and the media and fans being too critical of them, and in all honesty, they need to harden up, fans and media will never stop freely giving their opinion, and the only way to stop it is to perform.
I think the majority of Warriors fans are fair and if it looks like you are giving it everything you have got then they will show you respect (Simon Mannering and Steve Price are perfect examples)
Change is needed now in both attitude and personnel, 6 embarrassing years in a row is not good enough!

The Warriors head to the Gold Coast to face the Titans, with the recent news of James Gavet being ruled out I am struggling to see a positive result for the Warriors.
Still, without a win in Australia the Warriors need to come away with the two points here, but with the current side I don't see them getting it done so, I am picking the Titans to get the win at home here by 10.

So that was a demoralising round 13 result, and as per usual, I will leave you with some questions.

What should or could Kearney do to turn this season around?
Is the 2017 season over?
Would you bring some of the young guns into the side, if so who?
Where do you see the Warriors finishing in 2017?