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Saturday, 29 September 2018

NZ Warriors 2018 Season Review: A Welcomed step in the right Direction


Copyright Photo: Photosport
With the 2018 NRL Grand Final so close I decided it was the perfect time to comb through the Warriors 2018 and conduct my season review.
After seven years of disappointment, the Warriors gave fans more to smile about in 2018, and the Warriors have made a step in the right direction, but there is still lots of work on for the club as they prepare for 2019.
2018 was filled to the brim with talking points, so let's just get into the review.

My take on 2018

It is safe to say my morale took a hit at the end of 2017, I couldn't even put together a season review last year.
This tempered my confidence for the 2018 season, but the signings of Blake Green, Alex Corvo and Brian Smith did have me predict the Warriors to finish 7th (oh so close to a correct prediction).

Looking back at my season preview I highlighted the Warriors biggest weaknesses was their defence and conceding penalties.
The penalties were still an issue, but the defence was improved tenfold (more on that below), but there is still lots of room for improvement.

The Warriors started the season strong going 5-0 and looking like genuine title contenders until the Warriors of old made an appearance in a 50-10 disaster in Melbourne on Anzac day.
In this game the Storm showed the NRL the quickest way to dismantle the Warriors was by pushing the forward pack around, going over the season results all the Warriors most significant losses were also the matches that the forwards went missing.
This is an Attitude thing though as there were many games where the forwards had great performances so I'm confident that this will be addressed in the offseason and the recruitment of Leeson Ah Mau will undoubtedly add some much-needed starch to the pack.

It was good to see the Warriors left the 2017 gameplan back in 2017 and return with more attacking intent in 2018.
Changing that style unleashed the Warriors backline more specifically their back three, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had an unbelievable season and thoroughly deserved the Dally M medal.
David Fusitu'a continued his world cup form and dominated the try scoring stats for the majority of the year, but my biggest surprise was the improvement in Ken Maumalo's game.
Big Ken always frustrated me, you could see what he was capable of in previous seasons.
Ken just could never sort his hands out but in 2017 but this season that all seemed to be in the past as he bulldozed his way into the hearts of all the fans with his strong runs out of the Warriors own half.
If he had a centre that liked to pass to him, he might have even added a few more tries to his tally.
This back three is arguably one of the best in the NRL, and I look forward to watching them develop even further next season.
Heading into 2019 the backline is set with there only being one change I would make (more on that below in my players to improve section).

The Warriors were a lot more consistent this season and thankfully never went on any long losing streaks like they had done in the past.
Getting wins across the ditch helped their campaign, and this needs to continue next season as well as improving their home performances, with the club reducing season ticket prices the odds are that the crowds are going to bigger for them so they will need to get those results if they want to keep the crowds rolling in.

The way the season ended in round one of the playoffs was disappointing and took the shine of the improved 2018, it had been seven years since they Warriors reached the playoffs and there was enough in the performances to show that it wasn't a one-off.
This season was the closest it has been in years with only two points separating the eight placed Warriors from the minor premier Roosters.
2018 was the starting point, Kearney has the players he wants, the Warriors have provided him with the staff he needs, and they will need to build on this season and be prepared for a hard road in 2019 as teams will not take them lightly in the early stages of the season like they did this year.

The Warriors farewelled Simon Mannering this year and hope that after some much deserved time off Simon returns to the club in some form as his experience and dedication would be a welcome resource.
Simon is one of the most respected players in the game and the young players coming through the grades at the Warriors could not find a better mentor.
Thank you for everything you have done for the club Simon, you are the standard that all Warriors players should look to, good luck with retirement.

My Positives for 2018

There were lots to praise in 2018, but I have narrowed it down to my top three.

Goal Line Defence

The most significant improvement in 2018 was the goal line defence by far, in 2017 if the opposition got into the Warriors 10 it was only a matter of time before the Warriors were huddled under the goalposts.
With their improved fitness and attitude in 2018, the Warriors made teams really fight for any points scored in the red zone.
Their confidence in their goal line defence allowed them to take short dropouts and while it didn't always work, they were still able to keep teams out repeatably.
The most prominent example is that playoff game against the Panthers, the Warriors spent 10-15 minutes defending on their goal line as their short drops outs weren't working, but the Panthers could not break through.
It all comes down to their attitude and desire, you could make a highlight reel of all the massive try saving stops from Roger this season, and that effort was matched by the majority of this side, please may it continue in 2019.
If the Warriors can improve their defence for the other 90 metres of the field, then they will be a force in 2019.

Improved Fitness

This could have arguably been number 1 as I think without the high fitness level the goal line defence would not have been at the level it was.
Thank you, Alex Corvo, for coming to the club bringing the Warriors up to the fitness level required to play 80 minutes, gone are the days where the Warriors died out in the final 20 minutes.
Fitness is the key in all sports, you cannot perform at your best when you are hunched over gasping for air.
The players have also got to be commended as they showed the desire to reach the level that Alex expected of them and I imagine how you react to those expectations dictates whether you are a first grader at the Warriors or looking elsewhere for employment.
The Warriors have had a season under Alex now and know what to expect when they arrive for preseason and should only grow in year two under his tutelage, and I look forward to seeing the results.

The Recruits

2018 saw lots of changes at the club, with the massive exodus of players in 2017 the Warriors welcomed several players that were key to their performance this season.
There wasn't a poor recruit in the batch in my opinion, and I think they all helped the Warriors improve in some way.
Tohu Harris, Blake Green and Adam Blair all brought experience and direction to the Warriors and will be critical players once again in 2019.
Leivaha Pulu and Agnatius Paasi brought much-needed firepower to the forward pack with Paasi being my forward of the year by a landslide.
Peta Hiku was a discussion point for the fan base (and more on him below), but his combination with Johnson, Harris and Fusitu'a was lethal if only his defence matched his attack.
Gerard Beale did not get to make an impact early on due to his injury from the World Cup but when given his chance he showed the class he provides, he is the change I would make in the backline for 2019 with him taking over from Kata in the centres.
Anthony Gelling and Karl Lawton were not used in a large capacity, but both had moments to shine during the season.
The quality of all these recruits has meant there hasn't been a lot of signings going into 2019 and the Warriors having a settled side with familiar combinations will give them a much-needed edge.

My Negatives for 2018

2018 wasn't all sunshine and rainbows though which brings me to my 3 biggest negatives.

Bullying of the Pack

This was the biggest concern for me all year and whenever the opposition walked all over the Warriors forward pack the Warriors were on their way to a comprehensive defeat.
It wasn't the skill of the players as this pack put on dominating performances throughout the season they just need to do it at a consistent level.
It's not an easy job but the pack needs to be on top every week if the Warriors want to win the premiership, they have the backline to do it the forwards just need to do their part.
Ah Mau will help, and I see him and Paasi starting with James Gavet and Bunty Afoa being the two other key players in the forward rotation, I think Tohu, Pulu and Blair with form the second and back row with Interchange player of the year Jazz Tevaga adding from the interchange once again.

Anzac day loss

50-10, I don't know why but the Warriors never seem to perform on Anzac day, playing Melbourne is always going to be a tough task, but after such an excellent start to the season, I did not see a 40 point defeat on the cards.
It started a trend in 2018 where the Warriors seemed to struggle in games that began with long presentations, this needs to address in the preseason as they need to improve this if the Warriors make the Grand Final they will need to be able to perform after all the hoopla that precedes that match.
I guess it all comes down to their preparation and attitude and on the positive side of things, it is something that can be worked on.

Titans and Bulldogs losses

The round 20 and 23 losses to the Titans and Bulldogs, man oh man this is a sure-fire what if scenario.
The Warriors should have won these matched, and if they had, you could argue that they could have secured the Minor Premiership for only the second time in their history.
Im not sure what happened but I put it down to attitude, I think that they may have already thought they had these games won before they even started playing.
In fairness, I thought that these games were going to be easy wins myself but in the NRL you can not take any team lightly, and this is another problem I hope they address and fix in the offseason.

My Top Three Warriors for the season

Many players put their hands up this season, but I have narrowed it down to three.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Copyright Photo: Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

It should come as no surprise that Roger gets top billing here.
The 2018 Dally M winner had a fantastic season and took strides in growing as a Captain.
I don't think a single player has won as many Warriors of the game from me in my years writing about this club, but he was head and shoulders above the rest of the team week in and week out.
His contribution on attack was vital for the Warriors, but it was his defence that stood out for me, countless times this season he made try-saving tackles that helped stop oppositions turning the tide on this side.
Being the first Warrior to win the Dally M is a nice bit of history for Roger to claim and it will help with the Warrior recruitment on the future as it shows the players across the ditch that you can come here and still get your performance rewarded.
I look forward to Roger adding to his historical firsts as the first Warriors captain to lead this club to a premiership.

Issac Luke

What a year for Issac, after being unfit and overweight in his first few years with the Warriors Issac came into 2018 in terrific shape and it showed in his performance.
Throughout 2018 I referred to Issac as the glue, and I genuinely believe he was, when Issac was out there he was the difference, his sniping dummy half runs open up so many opportunities for the back line to strike and the team lost a step when he wasn't playing.
I hope that Issac is still around in 2019 and it appears that he is close to agreeing to a deal with the club.
A fit Issac still has plenty left in the tank, and I could think of no better mentor for the young hookers in the club to learn from.

David Fusitu'a

23 tries in 22 matches, NRL's top try scorer David Fusitu'a is among the best finishers in the game and shows no signs of slowing down.
David has grown so much in such a short time will be a crucial contributor for the Warriors for years to come.
His ability to score those diving tries with no room in the corner is breathtaking, and it's hard to believe a player of his size can do the things he can, but I look forward to watching him continue to develop.
That Warriors right edge is deadly, and I expect lots of points out of them in 2019.

My Three Warriors who need to Improve

There wasn't as many to pick from as in previous seasons, but I have three Warriors who have work to do.

Solomona Kata
Copyright Photo: Stuff

Kata is the only change I would make to this side if I were in charge, coming into 2018 I didn't have him in my 17, and I stick with that opinion.
This year was a highlight reel for Kata putting himself before the team with countless examples of ignoring overlaps and running out of dummy half on the fifth tackle.
I would love to say that Kata can learn and be a team player but he has been quoted as saying that he will always back himself and run himself.
I commend his confidence, but I would rather see him give the ball to someone in a better scoring position than dying with the ball.
Kata also still rushes out of the defence line and places extra pressure on Ken Maumalo defensively.
Solomona has a lot to work on in the offseason I just don't think he has it in him.
He saved his worst performance for the playoff match against the Panthers and showed he is not first grade level in my eyes.
I would have Beale come into the side in his place for 2019 which would solve that problem.

Sam Lisone

Sam is at a crossroads in his career with the Warriors, 2018 was the year for Sam to cement his spot as one of the Warriors go to props, but he let himself down with silly errors and ill-discipline.
He still has a lot of potential, but with the rest of the props in the squad performing at a higher level, I don't see him getting another crack anytime soon, and he may well be the next player we see moving on.
I hope that isn't the case but time will tell.

Peta Hiku

Lastly is Peta Hiku or should I say Peta Hiku on defence.
Peta was a key contributor on attack for the Warriors, but his defence was the worst of any player in the side by a landslide.
Playing at the Panthers his defence was never as poor as it was this season and maybe it is down to coming back from Super League Im not sure, but I expect a better effort from him next season.
I still rate Peta and would have him on the right edge in 2019 he just needs to work on that defence.

In Summary

2018 was a good starting point for the club to build on.
Going from only seven wins in 2017 to fifteen this season shows that this side is a better place now.
The building blocks are in place, and the team can go on to bigger and greater things in 2019.
The club is doing all the right things from an office standpoint, and with the decreased season ticket prices for 2019, I expect a more significant uptake in memberships (If your able to go grab a season ticket and get to as many games as you can next year).

This year was a standout for me in regards to my reviews too with so many of you reading and offering your thoughts every week, and I cannot thank you enough.
I got to meet so many Warriors fans this year that read my blogs and its great to be able to meet up at the games and events and talk about this team that we love and follow, and I hope to meet more of you in 2019.

A big thanks need to go to the other fans I have met that write or speak about this club, the View from the East Stand crew for bringing me on the Podcast several times this season, hopefully, that is something that continues in the future.
Charlie and the New Zealand Warriors Diehards and the Faithers crew for always sharing my reviews every week and all the other Warriors facebook pages that allow me to share my work on their pages.

Im exciting for 2019 will bring, and I look forward to talking to you all again soon, Im not sure how much Warriors writing will happen until my preseason review next year but I will be posting reviews on the upcoming Kiwis games for the first time which I'm looking forward to.

So that was my take on 2018, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

What are your thoughts on the 2018 Season?
Who was your Player of the year?
Which Player was your biggest disappointment?
How do you see the 2019 season going?



Monday, 10 September 2018

NZ Warriors Finals Week 1 Review: Panthers pile pressure on shell shocked Warriors

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
After last weeks great Mount Smart send-off for Simon Mannering, the Warriors ended their seven-year drought from playoff football and found themselves in Sydney for round one of the playoffs facing the Penrith Panthers.
Predictions on both sides of the Tasman had the Warriors as slight favourites to take this match, but the Panthers took advantage of a swing of momentum and never let go as they ran away with a 25-12 victory.

Well, that wasn't the result I was expecting or the way I saw the Warriors exiting the playoffs, but they are now out of the playoff race.
The Warriors started well, and it looked like they were on track to get the result until Roger Tuivasa-Sheck got injured and Solomona Kata got penalised for an incorrect play the ball.
From that point on it seemed that everything fell apart for the Warriors and the Panthers produced a great performance, playing almost completely error-free football and starved the Warriors of possession and territory for the majority of the second half.

In playoff football there is no tomorrow, you need to deliver on the night or become an afterthought and unfortunately, the combination of RTS's injury, experienced players making poor decisions and errors and the Panthers not giving away penalties or making mistakes made this too steep a mountain to climb.
Pitchforks have been out for Shaun Johnson, but I think heaping all the blame onto one player is unfair, yes he had a poor performance once the tide changed in this match, but the team lost this game, and several players had shocking displays.
Im hoping that the players take all they can from this match and learn from it and use it in preparation for 2019 which leads me to my positives from the game.

To be honest, I over have two positives from the match.

The Warriors started the match well, despite the Panthers getting the first points thanks to a Paasi penalty the Warriors fired back with two tries in quick succession showing that dangerous threat they can be when the team is firing on all cylinders.

Lastly, I want to praise the Warriors defence, in the second half, the Panthers had the ball for what felt like the majority of the time including one stage where they had five sets in a row.
Despite all of these sets, the Warriors conceded only one try in that second half, the Warriors of old would have spent most of that second half under the goalposts counting down the seconds until they could get off the field as the opposition repeatedly crossed the try line.
If the Warriors can bring that type of defensive effort to every game next year they will be well on their way to giving a better playoff performance.

That is all I have for my positives so I will get into my negatives.

The errors, man oh man the errors were painful to watch.
At times it felt like the Warriors couldn't do anything right.
Incorrect play the balls, silly offloads and penalties plus kicking the ball out on full from kickoff were schoolboy errors and should not be happening in the NRL let alone in the finals.
Maybe it was due to finals jitters or fatigue from the excessive defence but these errors are coach killers, and they need to be eradicated before the beginning of the 2019 season.

The forwards were gunshy, they played well until Kearney took Paasi and Gavet off.
Once these two were off, you could see the difference in the side, and by the time they returned to the field, it was too late.
As the cliche goes if the forwards don't set the platform the dangerous backline cannot be unleashed.
Shaun struggles behind a flat pack, and the Panthers (and the entire NRL) know this, and they bullied the Warriors pack to keep Johnson constantly on the backfoot.
On a positive note, Leeson Ah Mau had an excellent game for the Dragons in their annihilation of the Broncos and will add some much-needed firepower to the Warriors forwards.

Which actually leads me to my last negative, Ah Mau will be of no use if Kearney doesn't sort out his interchange rotation.
Perhaps with Simon's exit, it may be easier for Kearney to juggle a 17 that isn't stacked with second rowers.
Hopefully, this an addressed in the offseason and a better rotation is set for 2019.

Copyright Photo: Photosport
My Warrior of the game goes to Jazz Tevaga.
I have been critical at times this season of Jazz but what a display of heart he showed in this match.
He packs a punch despite his small stature and when the forwards around him were being dominated he continued to push his way through the defensive line, while also being one of the top tacklers in the match.
He still hasn't signed a new deal but im hopeful that he sticks around as he is a hard worker and I'm optimistic that his heart and desire is infectious and the rest of the squad inherit it.

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
My Warrior who needed to improve could have gone to several players, but I have gone with Solomona Kata.
First things first thank you for reading my reviews Solomona as after drilling you to pass the ball for the last two weeks you started this match passing the ball to Ken Maumalo repeatably, unfortunately, you still ran him out of space before giving him the ball.
Everything Kata did in this match went wrong, I'm not sure if the occasion got to him but his first two runs resulted in a penalty for the incorrect play the ball and a knock on.
I have been critical of Kata all year, and I still would rather have Hiku and Beale as the centres for 2019.
I would like to say that Kata can learn from this year and return in 2019 a better player but I just don't believe it.
This team's mantra all year was about being a unit, playing for each other and working together and Kata has continuously shown that he is all about the individual, he is the one player I would remove from the current 17.
Hopefully, something changes in the offseason, but I just don't see it happening with him.

So that's it, no more games for 2018.
It's a horrible way to bow out of the season, but I don't want it to overshadow the season that the Warriors have had.
They were the laughing stock of the NRL before the season got underway and they ended their season this weekend with one of the best away records in the NRL.
I don't want to go over the season too much here as I will be doing that in more detail in my season review in a week or two.
In regards to how the playoffs will go now, I'm not too sure, I still think the Storm and Roosters have the biggest shot at taking out the title, but the Dragons looked good this week also so it could be anyone's game.

Lastly, before I go, I want to thank all of you that have been reading my thoughts this season.
2018 has been a fantastic year so far for my little writing page, and all the people I have got to meet through my blog have made this a season to remember, and I hope it continues.
I usually go into hibernation once the Warriors season ends but I want to keep posting my ramblings throughout the offseason so I'm open to suggestions on what people would like me to write about until the Warriors return (Top tens list on the Warriors? International Match reviews?)

So that was my take on an unfortunate Finals week, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Who was your player to Improve?
Which teams will be in the Grand Final?
What are your overall feelings on the 2018 season?
What would you like to read on here during the offseason?

Monday, 3 September 2018

NZ Warriors Round 25 Review: Warriors celebrate Mannering Milestone with scrappy victory

Copyright Photo: Radiosport.co.nz
After guaranteeing a return to the playoffs with last weeks win over the Panthers, the Warriors were home once again at Mount Smart for the final round of the regular season against the Canberra Raiders.
Canberra came into the match as giant killers with recent wins against the Rabbitohs and the Roosters, so this was always going to be a tough match for the home side.
The pressure was on the Warriors with a sellout crowd there to celebrate not only the Warriors return to playoff football but Simon Mannering's 300th game.
It wasn't a pretty game, but the Warriors pulled through to ensure that Simon's last ever game at Mt Smart was a victory as they came away with a 20-16 win.

For the first time since I started writing my weekly reviews the Warriors are playing finals football, and as a fan, I cannot wait for this weekend.
This game wasn't a great game from the Warriors, but I think this tough contest was just what the Warriors needed in the lead up to week one of the finals.
The Warriors have struggled this year in matches with extended intros so with the much deserved prematch fanfare for Simon, and perhaps the Warriors let the occasion get to them however unlike those other times the Warriors showed git and determination and held on to get the win for Simon.

Before I get to my Match Positives, I just what to highlight Simon.
It is hard to describe the impact you have had not only on this fans life but all Warriors fans, in times when the Warriors were the laughing stock of the New Zealand sport, Simon was always spoken of in high regard because his class and dedicated was always evident.
Thank you, Simon, for everything you have done for this club, in the dark times you were the shining light, and it is excellent that the Warriors are in the playoffs for what it is your final year.
I hope you enjoy your retirement, but before that, there is still work to be done in 2018.

I could spend hours talking about Simon but back onto Round 25 and more on point my positives.

After 24 rounds of complaining about the missed tackles, the Warriors came through for me and delivered through lowest missed tackle tally for the year only missing ten in this match.
Defensively I thought the Warriors performed great, they were hitting the large Raiders pack and driving them backwards which did take some sting out of the Raiders set's, there was still the occasional lapse in judgement, but it was an improvement on previous rounds.
Despite less possession, the Warriors dominated the Raiders in run meters and tackle breaks, with Agnatius Paasi and Tohu Harris leading the way and the entire back five running for over 100 meters.
Speaking of Paasi, he also got to play more minutes but more on that below.
Also as mentioned above the match was tough which I think prepares the Warriors better for the playoffs than a blow out would have.
Once you hit that elimination football, there will be games where things don't go your way, and you need to dig deep to get the result.
The Warriors will be able to lean on this game (and come to think of it there first match up with the Raiders earlier this season) and use their experience in tough encounters to get the edge on the opposition.

That is all I have for my highlights right now (I always think of more after I upload) which brings me to my negatives from the match.

Even though the missed tackles were down the unforced errors were too high for finals football, they managed to keep the penalty count reasonably low, but now that they are into elimination football the Warriors will need to ensure they give the opposition possession as little as possible.
The execution of the plays seemed a bit off, perhaps the occasion got to them, or the safety net of their guaranteed playoff spot allowed them to got on cruise control at times, not a huge criticism however as when push came to shove the Warriors turned on and got the job done.

Shaun's goal kicking was a concern with Shaun only convert one of the three tries scored, every point counts, so Shaun needs to bring his conversion rate up to around the 80% from now on.

Lastly, in what seems to be my new pet peeve is Solomona Kata once again ignoring a huge overlap for Ken Maumalo and going it himself, he scored thankfully, but I feel that a butchered try is just around the corner and I don't want that to be the difference between winning and losing.
I will preach it until I die but the team comes before the individual.

Copyright Photo: Warriors.kiwi
My Warrior of the game goes to Agnatius Paasi.
Paasi had yet another strong game as I stated in my match positives.
Playing for 57 minutes and running for 177 metres, Paasi had a considerable impact on this match and put his hand up in my eyes to be in the discussion for best Warriors signing of 2018.
Paasi is always working, matching his big runs with plenty of tackles.
I'm hopeful that this form will continue in the upcoming weeks and that the rest of the prop rotation start to emulate it as the Warriors will be hard to stop with that kind of platform being set.

Copyright Photo: Stuff.co.nz
My Warrior to improve goes to Jazz Tevaga.
It was hard to pick out a Warrior to improve this week, but Jazz made a few silly errors including a dreadful mistake from the back of a scrum and ignoring a large overlap and trying to go himself unsuccessfully.
I like having Jazz in the Warriors 17, but I still feel he is better suited in smaller bursts instead of 60 or more minutes right in the middle of the game.
He is still young, and learning and I know he will have a strong game this week.

The first week of the finals has the Warriors heading to Sydney to face the Penrith Panthers.
I'm always wary of Penrith and this week is no exception, they have a good side and this year they are currently 1-1 in matches against the Warriors, beating the New Zealand 36-4 in round 17 and then losing 36-16 just last week.

The Warriors are not a team I would want to face in elimination football right now though as they currently have the best form in the competition winning four of their last five games.
They should welcome back Blake Green and James Gavet this week, and Simon Mannering and Roger Tuivasa Sheck should be cleared to play this week after suffering injuries during the Raiders match.
A full strength Warriors side will be tough but the Panthers are coming into this match full of confidence after defeating the Storm in the final round so this will be an exciting, tight contest.
I'm going to give it to the Warriors through and pick them to win by 8 this week and to go into week two of the finals to face the loser of the Roosters vs Sharks encounter.
If you are in Sydney, make sure you get down to support the Warriors in this must-win game.

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

Who was your player of the game?
What is your confidence level for the Warriors playoff chances?
Which teams do you see making the Grand Final?
What is your score prediction for Finals Week one?

Monday, 27 August 2018

NZ Warriors Round 24 Review: Warriors to return to Playoffs after punishing Panthers

Copyright Photo
After Round 23's defeat, the Warriors made the journey home to Mount Smart Stadium to face the Penrith Panthers.
With the NRL ladder the tightest it has been for several years the Warriors needed to get the victory to secure their spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Thankfully for the large crowd in attendance, the Warriors came to play and looked a much better side than the week before, getting the much-needed win 36-16.

This was one of the better performances from the team this season, the team appears to be clicking and is finding the right time to attempt to build momentum in the lead up to the playoffs, especially with so many teams in the top eight right now suffering upset defeats.
Without Blake Green, I was worried that the Warriors would lack direction, but Shaun Johnson stepped up to plate and lead this side around the park with Mason Lino slotting in and giving yet another strong outing.
Even when the Panthers scored two tries in quick succession in the second half, a Warriors win never looked in doubt.
The difference in comparison to last week I believe was due to the improved defence and a more significant impact from the forward pack (but more on both of those below).

The key now for the Warriors is to keep their tempo up if the Warriors can play their fast style they are going to tough to beat as shown in this match where they barely looked in danger to another top-eight side desperate for a win.

This leads me to my positives from the match.

The forwards played with a lot more intensity this week.
Despite their lower than expected metre stats (only one forward ran for over 100 metres), their runs were effective, and they were able to get the quick play the balls which allowed Issac to snipe from dummy half and also let the backs to run rampant on a backpedalling Panthers defensive line.

The backs were unstoppable in this match.
The entire back line except for Mason ran for over 100 metres, and they were always threatening to break the game open.
The Warriors are one of the best-attacking backlines in this competition, and if they continue to get a good roll on from the pack, there will be plenty more points scored by this side.

The strong goal-line defence returned.
As the cliche goes Defense wins Championships, and the Warriors strong goal-line defence continues to impress, the short goal line dropouts are still a great option as this game showed that if the Warriors did not regain possession, the opposition didn't have the space to create many chances to score.
If the Warriors can work on their defence in the middle of the park, then everything will be coming along nicely.

As great as this game was, it wasn't perfect which leads to my negatives.

In the first half, the Warriors were guilty of some poor last tackle options; there were several kicks from Shaun that went directly to the Panthers back three.
It may have just been a case of Shaun adjusting, and it did improve as the game progressed, but once they reach the playoffs, the Warriors will need to make every play count, I'm confident that the last tackle options will improve with the return of Blake, however.

I'm still not sold on the Interchange rotation, I feel like some players are getting too much time where others are not getting enough.
On a positive note at least this week, there wasn't a back sitting on the bench.

My last negative goes to one play by Solomona Kata.
When Kata scored his try there was an overlap for Ken Maumalo outside of him, I know he scored the try, but you should always be looking at the guaranteed play instead of boosting your individual stats.
It must be frustrating for Ken and could be a good carrot for opposition teams looking at signing the big winger to dangle in front of him (Ken if you come here you will have a centre that will feed you the ball instead of running you out of touch).
I could be in the minority, but I want to see the Warriors take advantage of any overlaps they get.

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
My Warriors of the game goes to Tohu Harris.
Tohu had a strong return to the field in his first game back from injury.
With 161 metres Tohu was the only forward to crack 100 metres, and with his return to the right edge, the Warriors attack was on fire once again.
Tohu is the key to that right edge firing, and it will be interesting to see what Kearney does with Beale now as Hiku had a strong game outside of Tohu.
If it were me, I would be replacing Kata with Beale and leaving Hiku out there, but a Beale and Harris combination could be deadly too.

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
I have no Warrior to improve this week, but I want to give shout outs to Shaun Johnson and David Fusitu'a.
Shaun had his best performance of the season in this match, attacking the line at will and creating opportunities for all the players around him.
When Shaun is in this kind of mood, he is one of the best players in the NRL, and the Warriors need him to be like this more often.
A running Shaun Johnson creates doubt in the opposition defensive line which in turn leads to holes that Shaun can put other players through, or he can hit that hole himself and score.
I have my fingers crossed that Shaun continues in this style for the rest of the season.

David Fusitu'a congratulations on 21 tries and getting back to the top of the try scorer leaderboard.
Five tries in two matches is impressive, and I believe there are still plenty more tries left in him for 2018.
I have no doubt that he is in talks to be the Dally M winger of year and is only the third Warrior to score 20 or more tries in one season (with Francis Meli and Manu Vatuvei being the other two).

The last round of the regular season is now upon us, and the Warriors get to spend it at home against the Canberra Raiders.
The Raiders are out of the playoff race, but they will be looking at ending their season on a high and have had some impressive performances in the past few weeks, so I'm expecting a tough contest.
The NRL Ladder is ridiculously tight this year and with one round remaining the Warriors could end up anywhere between second and eighth depending on how all the games end up.
I believe the Warriors still have a legitimate chance and finishing fifth or sixth and getting a home final but the Warriors can only control what happens in their game, and they will need to ensure that they come away with the win.

This game is also Simon Mannering's 300th game for the Warriors, so I expect the team to be ready for a big performance to honour one of the best players to have ever worn a Warriors jersey.
I'm predicted the Warriors to come away with a 16 point win here, I think the Warriors have started to gain momentum at the right time and will not be wanting to lose in such a special game for Simon, and I'm hoping a huge crowd is there on Friday night too.

So that was my take on a great Round 24, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Who would be your centres for Round 25?
Did you have a Warrior to improve?
How confident are you in the Warriors playoff chances?
What is your score prediction for Round 25?

Monday, 20 August 2018

NZ Warriors Round 23 Review: Bulldogs take bite out of Warriors top four aspirations

Copyright Photo: Photosport
After their victory over the Knights, the Warriors made their last journey across the ditch for the regular season to face the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
A win here would give the Warriors a potential shot at a top-four spot, but it wasn't to be as the Bulldogs got the win in a tighter than expected encounter 27-26.

What can you say about this performance from the Warriors?
Most people had the Warriors winning this game comfortably but much like the game on the Gold Coast the Warriors were out-enthused and let the opportunity pass them by.
The Warriors just seemed off the pace for the majority of the match, and while the Bulldogs were playing a simple gameplan, the Warriors could not contain them.
With the Warriors needing to play catch-up football, they needed to start playing a more expansive style, but all they brought to the party was one out runs that were reminiscent of 2017.
If you want a positive spin on the Warriors after this game, it is that the Warriors will still play in the finals unless the wheels fall off and they lose their last two games, and the Tigers manage to beat the Sea Eagles and Rabbitohs.
After this game a lot of pundits in Australia have written the Warriors off now which could work in the Warriors favour, this is a dangerous side, and when given the underdog tag this season they have responded successfully.
However, if they continue to play like they did against the Bulldogs they are not going to last so a return to form is urgently required.
There wasn't too much to praise, but I do have a few highlights which bring me to my positives from the match.

Congratulations to David Fusitu'a for becoming the fastest Warrior to score 50 tries after getting back to his try-scoring ways with a double.
David has had a season to remember when it comes to scoring tries, he had hit a bit of a dry spell, but hopefully this double opens the floodgates, and we see plenty more tries from him before the season is over.

My last positive is that the Warriors are finishing the regular season with two games at Mount Smart, utterly selfish positive, I just love going to live games on a Friday night.

Well, there wasn't a lot there that I could praise which leads me to my negatives.

The lack of forward momentum was a huge concern for me.
The props lacked serious punch and were bullied very easily by the Bulldogs pack, this, in turn, reduced the impact that Issac Luke had in the game with him having one of his quietest games of the season as he couldn't rush out of dummy half with his forwards continually being on the backfoot.
The forwards have shown that they can be a lot better than this so it's down to the attitude, improve that and the Warriors will back in front again.

There was very little pressure on the Bulldogs kickers, Lachlan Lewis is a great young talent, but he does not like kicking on the run so if more pressure was put on him he could have buckled.
Not to forget that there was no one was even close to him when he slotted the match-winning field goal which is inexcusable.

The Warriors last tackle options were poor with the most significant mistake coming on the Warriors the last set of the match, with the game locked up at 26 all Shaun Johnson kicked on the last direct to Will Hopoate, this lead to the Bulldogs starting there set in better field position which ultimately lead to that match-winning goal.
A kick into space or even a kick to the sideline to waste some time and go into Golden Point would have been the ideal play.

Lastly is the injuries.
The Warriors lost Blake Green in the 70th, and Gerard Beale and Shaun Johnson also had some issues.
The Warriors need all three players back for this Friday's match against the Panthers, so fingers crossed they get through this week unscathed.

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
My Warrior of the game for the third week in a row goes to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Despite the team's performance Roger continues to go from strength to strength with another high metre count (273metres this match).
When many of his teammates were struggling to dent the Bulldogs defensive line, Roger was always threating to break the line.
I firmly believe he has the potential to be the Warriors first Dally M medalist this season but a strong finish to the season by Roger and the Warriors is required.

Copyright Photo: W3Live News
My Warrior who needs to improve goes to Agnatius Paasi.
Paasi has been one of best Warriors this season, but this was his worst performance of the year with his runs barely making an impact.
I feel like he is going to bounce back (like the rest of the pack) this week and will be back to his best on Friday night.
He is head and shoulders above the rest of the props currently and will not have a poor performance two weeks in a row.

Round 24 sees the Warriors return to Mount Smart to face the Penrith Panthers.
The Panthers have lost James Maloney to injury and could possibly lose a few players to suspension due to the fight in the Panthers Round 23 match.
This does not make the Panthers match an easy win as the Panthers beat the Warriors in Round 17 without some of their stars.
If the Warriors can return to the attitude that they brought to the game against the Dragons they have a great chance to defeat the Panthers, if they show up like the did against the Bulldogs it will not be a good night for the home crowd.
I believe that Round 23 was a wake-up call for this side and they will bounce back against Penrith so im picking the Warriors to win by 10 here.

It has been an exciting run to the playoffs with the ladder being so close and with the recent run of upsets the Ladder continues to be hard to predict but I feel like my preseason prediction of 7th place is going to run true for the Warriors, but we will find out in two weeks time.

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

Do you think this is the beginning of a Warriors slide?
Who was your Warrior to improve?
Where will the Warriors finish on the Ladder?
What is your score prediction

Monday, 13 August 2018

NZ Warriors Round 22 Review: Milestone game and the Hot Stepper


Copyright Photo: TheHerald.com.au
After last weeks triumph in Wollongong, the Warriors returned home to Mount Smart to face the Newcastle Knights and celebrate Issac Luke's 250th game.
In contrast to their impressive away record the Warriors have not had great success in Auckland and were sitting on a four-game losing streak at home.
This streak ended however with the Warriors winning 20-4 with this win almost confirming that the Warriors will return to playoff football after a seven-year drought.

Man, it is great to be able to watch a Warriors win live again, I was starting to envy the Warriors fans across the ditch as the losses in Penrose started to stack up.
The first half was a bit sloppy with the Knights scoring first and the Warriors failing to stick their passes.
But on the back of their forward pack and the impressive back three the Warriors started to gain traction, and by the second half the Knights had nothing in the tank and appeared to be out of ideas as time ran out.
Sure it would have been great to see the Warriors blow the Knights off the park but I am more impressed in the fact that the Warriors kept the Knights to only four points, with playoffs looming the Warriors strong goal-line defence could be what determines how far into the playoffs they go.
This leads me to my positives from the match.

The Warriors forward pack came to play with six forwards running for over 100 metres.
James Gavet had a strong showing running for 151 metres, but the whole pack had a tremendous showing.
When the forwards play with the attitude they displayed here they set a great platform to unleash the lethal backline they have at their disposal, and this needs to continue.

Speaking of the backline five of the seven backs also ran for over 100 metres with all eyes looking at Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (338 metres) and Ken Maumalo (223 metres), even Blake Green had a field day running for 102 metres himself and scoring an excellent solo try.
I may be biased, but I believe that the Warriors have one of the best back three combinations in the NRL right now with Roger and Ken leading the way.
I don't envy the opposition coaches that have to try to work out a game plan to reduce the impact Roger, Ken and David have when returning kicks, we may soon start to see teams kicking for the sidelines much like what teams used to do to Billy Slater.

The goal line defence from the early rounds returned, and I think it is down to the confidence this team has.
You can see that the players have faith in the players either side of them and this, in turn, allows them to take the short drop-out option after being forced in goal as they know they can hold teams out if they have a full set close to the Warriors line.
With the rate that the Warriors have been regaining possession from these dropouts, you would have to assume that it is changing the way the opposition play when in the Warriors red zone as a repeat set is not guaranteed anymore.

My last positive is just the attitude the Warriors are starting to show in the final stages of the season,  this team believes that they belong in the top eight (even the top four) and they are not letting teams walk over them anymore.
Still lots of work to be down but they are starting to gain some momentum as the regular season winds down.

The game wasn't perfect however which leads me to my negative from the performance.

To be honest, I don't have that many for the second week in a row, but the Warriors were a bit reckless at times with the ball in hand throwing passes or offloads that didn't need to be thrown.
Simon Mannering needs to stop trying to offload as nine times out of ten it ends badly, he is a great player, but I think he should leave the second phase football to the players that do it well.

The penalty count still needs to come down a bit for me, but it was at least in the single digits, with some crucial games coming up that will determine whether they will have a home finals appearance or not the Warriors need to prevent any easy points for the opposition.

Lastly, I still want to see more minutes given to Paasi, I know im a broken record at this point but 35 minutes is not enough for the Warriors best front rower.

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
My Warrior of the game goes to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Who else could it genuinely go to Roger had one of his best performances on Friday night.
338 Metres, 11 tackle breaks and 2 line breaks is beyond impressive but one moment really stood out for me, and that was after one of his big breaks he made the decision to hold onto the ball instead of flicking a fifty-fifty pass out to one of the support runners.
Sure if he passed the ball it may have lead to a quick try but it was early in the tackle count, and he made the correct call to just take the tackle and let the team continue to roll on.
He has to be in talks for the Dally M this year, and I hope his forms continues.

Copyright Photo: newcastleknights.com.au
No Warrior to improve this week but I want to highlight Ken Maumalo.
Ken continues to go from strength to strength in 2018, I would love to see him get some more tries to add to his tally but his big runs are just as vital to this teams performance as all the tries that David scores on the other wing.
His runs out of the Warriors own half take so much pressure of this side and allows the forwards to get the Warriors deep into the opposition half, and I hope he continues to grow and develop into the monster winger he has the potential to become.

Round 23 has the Warriors make their final trip across the ditch in the regular season as they travel to Sydney to face the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs are a better team than their position on the ladder suggests, and the Warriors would be fools to take them lightly but judging by the past fortnight I don't think this Warriors side will do that.
If the Warriors pack play with the same intent that they showed in Round 22, they should be able to set the platform for the backline to run rampant on the Dogs.
I'm picking the Warriors to come away with a 14 point win here and cementing their claims for a possible top-four spot.

So that was my take on a sold Round 22, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Was this Rogers best performance ever in the NRL?
Is there any player that you think had a poor performance?
Do you think the Warriors can still make the top four?
What is your score prediction for Round 23?

Monday, 6 August 2018

NZ Warriors Round 21 Review: Gong drought over as Warriors vanquish Dragons

Copyright Photo: Mark Kolbe / Getty Images
Wishing to put the horrible performance in Round 20 behind them, the Warriors travelled down to Wollongong to the fortress called WIN Stadium where the Dragons have yet to be defeated in 2018.
Not only have the Dragons not lost at WIN Stadium this year but the Warriors have never tasted victory at the ground either.
However, 2018 continues to be the Warriors year of breaking hoodoos as they came away with a hard-fought 18-12 victory.

What a way to bounce back after the disaster on the Gold Coast, being labelled soft by your coach isn't easy to swallow, and the Warriors needed to bounce back, and they did just that with this performance.
The performance wasn't perfect, and they were their own worst enemies at times, but they showed heart and an improved attitude that harkened back to the beginning of the season.

A big shout out needs to go to Shani and the Warriors team for organising a supporters bus for the Warriors members to travel to the game together.
It looked like a fantastic experience and only strengthened my desire to get Brad's Ramblings across the ditch for a game next season and meet the likes of Warrior Nation and Josh Gage in the flesh, might have to try and force my way into the next View from the East Stand road trip.

In a stark contrast from last week, I have quite a lot of positives and not so many negatives so I will start off with my positives from the match.

The Warriors took advantage of the Matt Duftys sin-binning scoring all their points in that ten minutes, this is a considerable improvement when you rewind back to Round 12 where the Rabbitohs scored against the Warriors with a man in the bin.

The Warriors goal line defence was a welcome return and was the difference between winning and losing this match, the Dragons were throwing everything they could at the Warriors in the last 30 minutes of the game, and they held them out.
The highlight for me being yet another Roger Tuivasa-Sheck try saver where he stripped the ball out of Tim Lafai's hands over the line.

The attitude of the Warriors improved drastically this round, when they started to make some errors and let the Dragons back into the game at the beginning of the second half, my heart sank as I thought it was going to be a repeat of the Titans game but the Warriors kept their heads up and came together.
With the finals looming this attitude and desire needs to be consistently present if the Warriors are to make waves in the finals.

And lastly, the Warriors reduced their error count only making 6 errors in the match.
Unfortunately two of those errors lead to tries, but if the Warriors can keep their error tally in single digits, they will be well on track even more victories on the final stretch of the season.

As mentioned above this wasn't a flawless performance which leads me to my only negative of the match.

The Warriors need to reduce the penalty count, I think they were hard done by on a few calls, but in that second half they had 6 penalties called in a row, and if that happens again they could see a man in the bin or even worse see a victory slip away.
The Warriors have performed this best this year when they have towed that line so as long as they keep their defence strong, the Warriors can possibly afford a few extra penalties but the fewer chances they give the opposition with the ball the better it is for them.

I'm, sure there is more I could nitpick, but I feel like I still have a pair of rose-tinted glasses of as I can genuinely admit I did not expect the Warriors to come away with the win.
The Warriors record against the Dragons is poor, but it is fantastic to have in the record books that in 2018 the Warriors ended the Dragons win streak and also handed them their first defeat at WIN Stadium.

Copyright Photo: Photosport
My Warriors of the match goes to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
As I said last week when I pick Roger as my Warrior to improve I believed it was a blip and that he would bounce back and boy did he ever.
To say Roger had a strong game is an understatement, he ran hard and fast, creating chances for the Warriors backline to score and did not shirk his defensive responsibilities.
Roger exemplifies the attitude the Warriors showed this week, you can see that he is giving it 100% for the entire 80 and that has to rub off on the rest of the team.
If the rest of the side can match Roger's commitment for the remainder of the season, I feel like they could have a decent chance in upsetting some of the playoff favourites.

Copyright Photo: Photosport
My Warrior to improve goes to David Fusitu'a.
This was hard as I think the majority of the side had a good performance, but unfortunately for David, he made 3 errors in the second half, three doesn't sound like much, but when the Warriors only made 6 mistakes, it makes 3 errors a bigger deal.
It didn't help that 2 of his errors lead to the Dragons only tries in the match.
Much like Roger last week, David's performance this week was an anomaly, and I firmly believe that David will bounce back this week.

In round 22 the Warriors return to Mount Smart to face the Newcastle Knights, with 3 of the last 4 games of the season being played at home the Warriors need to turn around their poor form at home.
Its hard to believe that the Warriors have only won 4 games at home this season when they just notched up their 8th away victory for the year.
If the Warriors can win the rest of their home games, they may still have a legitimate chance of making the top four again.
The Knights have been a bit up and down the past few rounds and im picking the Warriors to get the win by 10 here.
The Warriors are going to need to shut down Kalyn Ponga plain and simple, and if they play like they did in Wollongong, then they have a great chance of getting the win here.

So that was my take on a fantastic Round 21, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

What was your biggest positive from this performance?
Who was your player to improve?
How many wins do you see the Warriors getting in the last 4 Rounds?
What is your score prediction for Round 22?







Monday, 30 July 2018

NZ Warriors Round 20 Review: Woeful Warriors return in Gold Coast blowout

Copyright Photo: www.titans.com.au
After last weeks tight encounter against the Storm the Warriors made their way to the Gold Coast to face the Titans.
The Warriors have enjoyed a rich vein of form against the Titans, winning the past six matches between the two and a comprehensive victory for the New Zealand side was expected by most fans and pundits alike.
The Titans didn't read the form guide however and put the Warriors to the sword with a resounding 36-12 defeat.

Well, I think Stephen Kearney described the Warriors performance in this match best when he labelled the Warriors soft after they fell to pieces in the second half.
The first half performance was more composed than last week most likely due to the return of Blake Green but then that second half came, and the Warriors were truly awful, lacking cohesion and making silly errors on both attack and defence.
I'm not sure what happened in the sheds at halftime, but whatever it was the Warriors need to steer clear of it for the remainder of the season.
Perhaps the Warriors like myself took this game lightly and suffered the consequences of taking their eyes off the prize.
Hopefully, it is the kick in the pants the Warriors need on the final stretch of the 2018 season.
There isn't much to praise, but I do have a select few highlights which leads me to my positives of the match.

The Warriors should welcome back Tohu Harris, Issac Luke and Adam Blair to the game day 17 for this weeks clash against the Dragons.
This is a must-win game for the Warriors, and the Dragons are going to be a challenge but having those three experienced players back will give the Warriors a fighting chance.

My last positive is the young guns Isaiah Papali'i and Joseph Vuna.
In a game where the majority of the side underperformed these two played well beyond their years, it's hard to believe that they are as young as they are.
Papali'i has a bright future and will be a mainstay for the Warriors for years to come as long as his body holds up to the weekly grind of the NRL.
Vuna has impressed me over the past few weeks and while he still has a lot to learn he has time and size on his side.
With the injured players returning I think he has done enough to hold onto a bench spot with Chris Satae and Sam Lisone being the most likely to be dropped back into reserve grade.

That is all I can pick out as positives which brings me to my negatives.

Kearney still appears to be clueless when it comes to his interchange rotation, he had Jazz Tevaga out on the field too long again, instead of moving him into the middle forward role when Karl Lawton came on he should have taken him off for a rest.
In weeks past you could argue that he needed Jazz out there for long periods but Jazz moving into the forward role in this game just meant reduced minutes for Simon Mannering.
Paasi and Gavet also played limited minutes (albeit Gavet's minutes took a hit due to his injury from the crusher tackle).
 I feel like a broken record, but Paasi needs at least 60 minutes of game time each week, I would have him start the first 30 minutes and then return for the final 30.
Paasi is excellent at eating those metres and adds defensive pressure in the middle of the field, and that is too much of an edge for the Warriors to leave on the sidelines.

The Warriors attack was one dimensional, and the Titans were able to shut them down at ease.
To be honest, if Warriors want to be one dimensional, they could have at least just kicked to David Fusitu'a in the corner, but they didn't even do that.
I think the primary issue was the loss of Issac Luke, he is the glue that keeps this team together, and without him, the Warriors lost the edge they would have had in the ruck area.
With him back this week I think the Warriors will once again be on the same page attack wise.

Lastly, the Warriors as Kearney put it were soft, the Warriors fell apart at the seams in that second half, and it was all down to attitude.
They fell off tackles and did not keep their defensive line in check finding themselves in a two on one situation far too often.
It was an embarrassing performance to witness against a side they should have blown off the park.
I'm confident that the Warriors will do some soul searching this week and will put on a better performance in Round 21 and against the Dragons they are going to need it.

Copyright Photo: www.stuff.co.nz
My Warrior of the game goes to Leivaha Pulu.
Pulu was a key performer at the start of the Season, and the Warriors got the wobbles when he got injured, and in his first game back he showed no signs of ring rust putting on a solid performance where many around him faltered.
He ran strong and offered the Warriors second phase opportunities, defensively he started to slip towards the end of the game with match fitness possibly being an issue, but he will be integral to the Warriors push to return to the playoffs.
I expect him to be starting this week and continuing his fine form.

Copyright Photo: www.nrl.com
My Warrior who needs to improve goes to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
I almost could have put the majority of the side in this category this week, but Roger had a day to forget on the Gold Coast.
The Titans heaped the pressure on Roger, and he usually is able to rise above it, but it just wasn't to be in this match.
As the points piled on Roger appeared to get worse, making errors out the back that he usually never would make.
It is a blip on the radar for Roger, and he will bounce back this week, players of his calibre rarely underperform in back to back games, so I expect a strong showing from him this week.

Round 21 has the Warriors heading to WIN Stadium to face the St George Illawarra Dragons in what is going to be a tough task.
The Warriors seldom walk away from WIN Stadium with a victory, but they desperately need the two points this week to keep themselves in contention for the playoffs.
To beat the Dragons, the Warriors are going to need a massive performance from the forward pack, and the whole side needs to front defensively to stop the Dragons getting a roll on.
As cliche as it is, this game will be decided by whichever teams forwards get the edge, both sides have lethal threats in the backline, but you have to do the work up front before you can cash in out wide.
I'm picking the Dragons to win by 12 here, I think they will be too strong for the Warriors, but hopefully, my prediction is wrong once again.
The View from the East Stand Podcast crew are making the trip across the ditch for this match so have a listen to their episode this week to hear their plans for the weekend if you are in Sydney and want to meet up and say hi.

So that was my take on an awful Round 20, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Do you think Kearney has an issue with the interchange rotation?
What players would you drop for the returning Luke, Harris and Blair?
Who was your Warrior to improve from Round 21?
What is your score prediction for Round 21?

Monday, 23 July 2018

NZ Warriors Round 19 Review: Poor execution the difference in tight tussle

Copyright Photo: storm.com.au
After their exciting round 18 victory at Suncorp Stadium, the Warriors were back at Mount Smart to face the Melbourne Storm.
After the embarrassment of the Anzac day clash, the Warriors were looking for revenge, but it was not to be as they lost a much closer battle 12-6.

What a tight game this was, the Warriors showed more spirit in this match than they did in their round 8 encounters against the Storm.
Unfortunately, the Warriors lacked the execution that you need when you play a side like Melbourne, a large part of this I believe was due to the late withdrawal of  Blake Green.
Blake has been integral in leading this Warriors team around the park and in his absence.
I don't believe that Shaun Johnson and Mason Lino were up to the task in this match, making some questionable choices and not trying to settle the side down when time was running out, cool heads needed to prevail, and it felt like the team was panicking and just throwing the ball around without thought.

It wasn't all bad by any means which leads me to my positives.
The Warriors defensive effort improved in this performance, still too many missed tackles for my liking, but there weren't too many areas of the defensive line that the Storm could target.
Gerard Beale is adding some much-needed structure on the right edge, but if I could nitpick one thing, it would be Solomona Kata's desire to rush out of the defensive line nearly everytime the Storm ran his way.

Paasi shined once again with another strong performance. Unfortunately, Stephen Kearney forgot that he was in the side and only gave him 41 minutes in this match.
I firmly believe that if Paasi were given more minutes, the Warriors would have won this matchup.
He fights for every metre and is always a nuisance defensively.
He can play more minutes as he showed last week so they should be using him more.

Lastly, the Warriors did not give up in this match, even in the dying stages of the game they were still pushing the Storm to the limit, but they were just unable to finish their opportunities.
It's a learning lesson for the Warriors and a close hard fought match like this is perfect when it comes to preparing for finals football, and I think with Blake Green back the Warriors will have a better chance of converting their opportunities into points and ultimately getting them the win.

There were still areas of concern though which leads me to my negatives.

First up the referees were not up to scratch not only in this match but in several this round.
In this match however they missed forward passes for both sides, and Cameron Smith's high shot on Ken Maumalo was impossible to miss yet for some reason they missed it.
The NRL need to do something about the poor performances from the referees as it really makes the games frustrating to watch.
Don't get me wrong the Referees were not the reason that the Warriors lost this match I just want some accountability if the officials perform poorly.

Stephen Kearney still seems unable to effectively use his interchange, with Peta Hiku's injury during the week we finally have three forwards on the bench, but he just left his players off the field for too long.
At one stage Kearney had Simon Mannering, James Gavet and Agnatius Paasi all sitting on the bench, against the Storm you cannot keep players like that on the bench for as long as Stephen did, im hopeful that one day he will get it but it most likely won't be this season.

My last negative is the lack of execution.
Shaun Johnson and Mason Lino did not mesh, and neither player seemed to put there hand up to lead the team.
It's no secret that Shaun performs better when he doesn't have the pressure on him to steer the ship but with Mason joining him in the halves he really needed to step up, and he just didn't deliver.
Several times throughout this match they both looked lost and made silly decisions, the play that sticks out in my mind was when Mason put a grubber through for himself on the 2nd tackle when he had a two-man overlap on his outside.
All this will be fine if Blake returns next week but if he doesn't Shaun needs to step up.

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
My Warrior of the game goes to Ken Maumalo.
Ken continues to impress me each and every week, it's hard to believe that this is the same player that couldn't seem to hold onto the ball last season.
His runs are critical to the Warriors performances every week, and it's a joy watching him when he makes a break.
He still has a lot of room to develop, and I believe the best is yet to come from big Ken.

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
My Warrior to improve is Simon Mannering.
After announcing his retirement during the week, I thought a weight would be lifted from his shoulders, but this week he seemed to make a lot of errors that he wouldn't usually do.
He was off on his passing game and tried to offload when it wasn't on.
I think it may have been more a fact that Simon was trying too hard and it just wasn't working.
I firmly believe that this was a blip, Simon will bounce back strong as he nears his 300th game and will finish his career off with much better performances.

Round 20 has the Warriors heading back across the ditch to face the Gold Coast Titans.
The Titans have been the Warriors whipping boys for the past few seasons, and I feel that this trend will continue with the Warriors winning this match by 12.
With the ladder as congested as it is the Warriors really need to get a big win here to improve their points differential.
There is still a buffer between 8th and 9th place, but the Warriors need to add to their win tally to keep themselves comfortably in playoff contention.
Blake Green and Issac Luke should both return this round, but Adam Blair has been cited and will miss one game if he pleads guilty and two weeks if he fights it and loses.
If it were me I would take the guilty plea as missing the match against the Dragons is too big a risk.
Pulu will most likely return to the side in Blair's place after a strong return in reserve grade this week.

So that was my take on a deflating round 19, but as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Do you think that the Cameron Smith high shot should have been a penalty?
Who was your Warrior to improve?
Would you rush Pulu back into the side?
What is your score prediction for Round 20?