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Monday, 28 May 2018

NZ Warriors Round 12 Review: Pattern continues as Warriors struggle against Burgess trio

Copyright Photo: Photosport
After their scrappy win over the bottom-dwelling Eels, the Warriors came home to Mount Smart to face a South Sydney Rabbitohs side currently enjoying a three-match winning streak.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck returned to the side, but Mason Lino was ruled out, meaning Peta Hiku was moved into the halves with Gerard Beale slotting into the centres, but it wasn't enough to make a difference as the Warriors continued their current win-loss trend alive going down 30-10.

This was another tough game to watch, the Rabbitohs have been watching the game tape and knew exactly what to do to obtain a victory over the home side, simply put once again the Warriors forwards were bullied into submission.
The Burgess boys were on a rampage all night, and the Warriors showed no signs of stopping them.
Missing Lino did not help matters, but I think with the forwards struggling there wouldn't have been much Mason or even Shaun Johnson could have done to help this side get the victory here.
If the Warriors want to have a successful run in the playoffs, they need to seriously increase their intensity in the forwards as a way to combat their smaller stature in comparison to the top packs in the comp.
The bye week couldn't have come at a better time as Stephen Kearney and co need to go back to the drawing board an rethink the way they set up the pack.
Adam Blair needs to move out of the Lock position, move him to prop and have either Simon Mannering move there or have Ligi Sao come back as he was strong in the early rounds.

The backs are fine, Shaun will return after the bye, and the only other player I would be looking at bringing in fulltime is Gerard Beale for either centre.
Comments were split last week with many making good cases for why Solomona Kata or Peta Hiku should be dropped, right now for me, I would be siding with cutting Hiku, but I can see the other point of view also.

Beale looked strong once again in his second showing for the Warriors which leads me to my positives from the match.

I don't have many to be honest, but I did like how Gerard Beale constantly looked threatening when given the ball, there were several instances where he was able to get his upper body free in the tackle and was looking to offload the ball to create some much needed second phase.
Unfortunately, there were no players in support, and the Warriors really need to bring this into their game plan, they just need Roger, Shaun or even Issac to be running the channel just off the shoulder of the ball runner, add that dimension to their game and watch the tries pile on.

That is all I could really highlight as a positive this week as there was a lot more to be concerned about which leads me to my negatives.

The defence was woeful, I cannot even begin to understand how the Rabbitohs were able to score two tries so quickly when they had a man in the sin bin, that should never happen.
If you can't gain any momentum on attack falling apart on defence is just paving a road to disaster.

The forwards lacked that punch needed for NRL level football, it felt like Paasi was the only forward actually going running with intent in this match.
Bunty Afoa had a quiet game in comparison to how he has been performing this season and James Gavet was more interested in playing with his hair than bending the defensive line.
I'm hopeful that after the bye the forwards have a reshuffle or a change of attitude to bring themselves up to a top-eight quality.
The ladder is super tight right now, and a few more slipups like this and the Warriors could find themselves out of the eight with a battle on their hands to get back in as their points differential is going to take a mighty effort to improve.

The Warriors biggest issue is the way they are losing, the top sides have lost this year, but they have been tough hard-fought matches, the Warriors losses could almost be described as "easy wins" for their opponents.
I know they have only lost four matches this season, but unless they can bring a tough edge to their gameplay, I fear there will be a lot more losses coming.

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My Warrior of the game goes to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Regardless of how the team is performing, you can always bank on Rogers to be giving it 100% out there.
He showed intent with the ball in hand and was always trying to be involved in all facets of the game.
I hope that his baby arrives during the bye week as the road only gets harder if Roger was unavailable for another game.
If the rest of this side could match Roger's attitude, this side would be very dangerous and im hopeful that as his ability as a Captain grows so too does his influence over the players around him.

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My Warrior to improve goes to Simon Mannering.
I never thought I would have Simon in this section ever and im sure I will get a lot of pushback, but for the past few weeks I have noticed that Simon is not playing at the level we have all come to expect.
For the first time his age seems to be showing, and in this match, he fell off tackles that he never would have before.
He has been the benchmark for this team for a long time, and I believe that carrying the Warriors for as long as he has done has taken a toll on him.
Simon himself has commented that he has enjoyed coming out of the bench instead of being an 80-minute player and I think that is how he should be used right now.
Admittingly losing Pulu to injury kind of changed how Mannering has been used but I think reverting back to Simon coming off the bench is what is best for the team.
Regardless of what his decision is when his contract runs out this season, you cannot deny the contribution Simon has made to this club, and I think the Warriors would be fools if they did not find a place for him inside the organisation after his playing days are over.
His work ethic is second to none and if could pass that onto the young talent coming up the club would be all the better for it.

Round 13 sees the Warriors have there one and only bye this season and with the two points, they will earn they will stay in the top eight once again.
Round 14 will see the Warriors fly down to Christchurch to face the Manly Sea Eagles hopefully with all their players back from injury.
I am predicting the win-loss pattern to continue with the Warriors getting a 14 point victory over the Manly side.

With no game to review next week I will be posting my midseason review so that is something to look forward to next Monday after having a no Warriors game to watch in the weekend.

So that was my take on a tough Round 12, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Are you worried about how the Warriors are performing in recent Rounds?
Do you think I was unfair on Simon?
Where do you see the Warriors finishing on the ladder?
Who would be your midseason MVP for the Warriors?

Monday, 21 May 2018

NZ Warriors Round 11 Review: Grit shines in tight tussle with Eels

Copyright Photo: The Australian / Brett Costello
After a disappointing Round 10 performance the Warriors once again made the journey to Sydney, this time to face the bottom of the table Parramatta Eels.
The Warriors were buoyed by the return of Issac Luke but lost Roger Tuivasa-Sheck who stayed in New Zealand on baby watch; this saw a reshuffle with Peta Hiku moving to fullback and Gerard Beale making his Warriors debut at right centre.
With several teams nipping at their heels the Warriors needed the win here, and they walked away with the two points with a tough fought 24-14 victory.

It definitely wasn't pretty, but the Warriors showed grit and determination after the Eels looked to be on their way to a win.
Losing Roger before the match was a significant loss but I think moving Peta Hiku to fullback and bring Beale in was the right call.
Hiku has some experience at Fullback and has been playing first grade all season, so there was as little distraction as possible to the lineup which was sorely needed with Shaun Johnson still out.
Bringing Beale in with his extensive experience helped tremendously as well, and I think he performed well in only his second game back from a broken leg.

The Warriors were able to exhort a lot of pressure on the tiring Eels side which forced much-needed errors that allowed the Warriors to get themselves back into the match which leads me to my positives from the game.

The Warriors showed heart in this match, with a man down in the bin the Warriors managed to only leak one try in that ten minute period, the Warriors do seem to lift when they are a man down.
I only hope they start bringing that level of intensity to their games for the entire 80 minutes.

The forwards started their road to redemption after last weeks performance and gave the Warriors the go forward they needed to unleash their backs.
They still have a way to go as some of the forwards are still not playing at the level required as they near the middle of the season, but I'm confident that they will get there.

I also want to praise Hiku and Beale, the last minute change to the lineup could have been a nightmare, but I think they both performed well in this match, Hiku was threatening on attack and did well defensively.
I still hope Roger is back this week, but Hiku did enough to show that he can fill in if needed (much like Mason Lino is doing in the halves right now).
Beale looked like he hasn't missed a step since his injury and even after only playing two matches he must already be in contention for taking a centre spot over from Hiku or Kata.
Stephen Kearney will have a few selection headaches in the upcoming rounds, but I'm glad as it shows some depth which is needed with injuries always being a constant threat in NRL.

As stated above this game was an ugly win which leads me to my negatives from the match.

Penalties are still a huge concern for me and with the Warriors getting yet another sin bin and they really need to be careful; the Warriors have been getting a lot of success in 2018 when they are tiptoeing on that infringement line, they just need to reign it back a little.

The Warriors edges have started to rush in again which is a concern with some strong sides coming up in the next few rounds which will no doubt target this in their game day strategy (another possible reason to bring Beale in for Hiku to strengthen the defensive on the right edge).

The Errors need to reduce, nine unforced errors are far too many, and the top echelon sides will punish this side if they continue to make simple mistakes.

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My Warrior of the game goes to Issac Luke.
As I said last week, Issac is the glue in this side, and you could see the lift the Warriors got with his return.
The Forwards seemed to be more direct and with Issac leading them from the front like he has been doing all season and he adds much-needed starch to the middle of the defensive line.
He is a constant threat out of dummy half and this continued with another good try after a strong scoot from the ruck area.
I would say Issac in the top three or four hookers so far this season and im hopeful that his form will continue through to the playoffs.
He is in the last year of his contract, and I would find it hard to believe that the Warriors will not be chasing his signature for a few more seasons.

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My Warrior to improve this round goes to James Gavet.
Full disclosure James is my favourite Warrior in the current squad, and I thought he started the season strong, but something has been missing since his return from injury a few rounds ago.
I'm not sure if his fitness took a hit with the time out of first grade, but he isn't running the ball with the impact he used too.
The Warriors need him back to his old form sooner rather than later as the Warriors will be hard to stop if James, Bunty, and Agnatius are all running with intent.

Round 12 has the Warriors return home to Mt Smart to face the South Sydney Rabbitohs for the second time this season.
The Rabbitohs have been strong this year and im sure they will be looking to avenge their Round One defeat to the Warriors in Perth.
The Rabbitohs forwards have returned to their physically dominating ways, and the Warriors are going to need to front to ensure they do not have a repeat of there last home game performance.
The Warriors have a bye in round 13, so they have no excuses to not leave it all out on the field this week, and hopefully, they will welcome Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck back into the side.
For only the second time this season, I was able to correctly predict the margin last week, so fingers crossed I can make it two in a row with my prediction this week.
Im picking the Warriors to get the win here by 8 points.

So that was my take on a good Round 11 performance, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

What would you be doing with Gerard Beale?
Who do you think needs to improve the most?
Would you re-sign Issac Luke for further seasons?
What is your score prediction for Round 12?

Monday, 14 May 2018

NZ Warriors Round 10 Review: Roosters punish sloppy Warriors

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
After their impressive Round nine victory the Warriors hosted the Sydney Roosters in the first ever Indigenous round game played in New Zealand.
After defeating the Roosters emphatically in Round four, many (myself included) predicted another win for the home side but the Roosters had other plans as they dominated the Warriors in a one-sided affair handing the locals a 32-0 drubbing.

What a disappointing game, losing is bad but to not score a single point is dreadful which is probably the only way I can describe this match.
The Rooster's had something to prove with many critics pointing fingers at a lacklustre Roosters pack, and they delivered.
To put it simply the Roosters bullied the Warriors, and the Warriors did not offer any fight back.
The Warriors forwards could not get the upper hand at any stage throughout the match which in turn restricted the impact that the Warriors outside backs and on the game.
To make matters worse whenever the Warriors did get hold of the ball they lost it early in tackle count which just negated any momentum that the Warriors tried to build.

At halftime, the Warriors were only down 14-0 and could have quickly forced their way back into the match with a refreshed performance in the second half, but they just delivered more of the same.

The matchup was always going to be hard with the Warriors missing Shaun Johnson and Issac Luke, but in my opinion, Issac Luke is the key.
It's no coincidence that in the Warriors two worse performances this season Issac only played limited minutes in one and did not play in the other.
Issac is like the glue to this side and is sorely needed, which leads to my positives from the match.

Issac should be cleared to return this week.
The Warriors are still in the top four, but the competition is close this year, and there are a lot of teams nipping at the Warriors heels right now, so the Warriors really need to add more wins and improve their points differential.
Those are my only positives for Round 10, so I will just get into my negatives.

With the forwards clearly struggling I do not understand why Stephen Kearney did not bring James Gavet into the match until 10 minutes into the second half.
James brings mongrel and grunt but by the time he got out there the battle was already over.

The whole interchange rotation in this round was puzzling to me, to be honest, they took Karl Lawton of reasonably early and kept Jazz Tevaga out there for too long when it was evident that he needed a spell on the bench.

The defensive line was lazy, and there were too many times when some of the defenders had their backs to the Roosters by the time the Roosters were already running at them.
The Warriors defensive liabilities have been apparent all season, and the Roosters just played a simple gameplan and made the Warriors looked silly.

The handling errors were inexcusable, 16 in total and there was at least 3 that occurred on the first carry of a set when you are under the pump and need to claw your way back into the game you cannot just give the opposition the ball back so easily.
The Warriors were disjointed and lacked the cohesion that has made them dangerous in the early stages of the season, and if they want to make a serious run in the playoffs, they need to come together once again and start showing some consistency.

The last ten minutes of the game reminded me of the old Warriors sides that seemed more interested in getting into fights than winning the match, the old " we cant win the match, but we will win the fight" mentality.
The Warriors weren't entirely to blame for this as Dylan Napa and Jared Warea-Hargreaves definitely needling the Warriors (on that note who is Napa sleeping with to get the rub of the green with his defensive slip-ups, he seems to get away with a lot of no arm tackles every year).

My biggest concern right now is that the other sides have figured the Warriors out and this could lead to a slide for the New Zealand side if the Warriors do not increase the physical intensity and the forwards don't prepare for a battle every week then it could be a rough time for Warriors fans.

I don't have a Warrior of the game for Round 10, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was trying out there, but I just couldn't select a "best performer" after that performance so I will leave it at that.

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
My Warrior to improve could have gone to quite a few players, but I have selected Jazz Tevaga.
I don't rate Jazz as a hooker, and I think he performs at his best in the second row.
When he went out there his passing from the ruck was too slow, especially with the forwards not making a dent, a delayed delivery out of the ruck was the last thing the Warriors needed.
He also seemed to pick the wrong times to run out of dummy half, the key to Issac Lukes stellar performances this season has been his ability to pick and choose when to run and when to pass.
Jazz looked gassed very early on, and he started to make errors and give away simple penalties.
As mentioned above I think Jazz was kept out on the field for too long and needed to be pulled sooner than he was.
I'm hopeful that Jazz will bounce back, but I would just prefer him to stay away from the hooking role.

Round 11 sees the Warriors travel to ANZ Stadium to face the Parramatta Eels.
The Eels had a horrible start, but with the return of Clint Gutherson the Eels have started to show a lot of fight, and I think this will be a tough match for the Warriors.
Issac appears to be all set to return for this match, but Mason Lino looks to be out with the same injury as Shaun Johnson so there is a question mark over who will join up with Blake Green in the halves.
I honestly have no idea who I would put there right now, Tohu Harris, Peta Hiku and Karl Lawton all have some experience at five-eighth, but I'm not sure who I would be comfortable having there.
Right now I would probably lean towards Karl Lawton, he has been playing in the halves in reserve grade this season so at least he has the most recent experience there and Blake Green should be able to look after Karl out there.
Another option I would look at is putting Hiku there and bring Gerard Beale into the centres.
Im picking the Warriors to win by 10 here and am hoping to see a much better performance than what they offered in Round 10.

So that was an embarrassing Round 10 performance, and as usual, I will leave you with some Questions.

Who would you have partner Blake Green in the halves if Mason and Shaun don't play?
Do you have a Warrior of the match?
Can this team perform without Issac Luke?
What is your score prediction for Round 11?

Monday, 7 May 2018

NZ Warriors Round 9 Review: Warriors dominate Tired Tigers to keep in premiership contention

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
After the disappointment of Anzac day, the Warriors returned home to face a West Tigers outfit that has been on end of back to back defeats desperately looking to return to the impressive form they have shown in 2018.
This was not to be as the Warriors who were looking to make their own return to form made a statement with a resounding 26-4 victory.

The Warriors needed to bounce back from last weeks lacklustre performance, and I think they made a good step in the right direction.
The Tigers have been good this year but have found themselves in a slump, and the frustration in the team was clearly evident, giving away a lot more penalties than usual and making over twice the amount of errors that the Warriors did in this match.
Two sin-bins given to the Tigers did not help their case, and they never appeared to be in the contest.
Injuries to Issac Luke, Adam Blair and Shaun Johnson could be a concern, word from the club hasn't been clear, but it appears that Blair and Luke will be back next week with only Shaun likely to miss the Roosters match.
There is still a lot of room for improvement in this side, but they can hold their heads high after this match which leads me to my positives from the game.

The forwards fronted in this match, Bunty Afoa and Agnatius Paasi really got the pack rolling, and the welcomed return of Tohu Harris added some much-needed starch to the right edge which was heavily exposed last week.
With the momentum the forwards gifted them the backs were allowed to run havoc, the right edge continued to show how threating they can be with David Fusitu'a strolling over for his 11th try of the season.

Shaun's return from injury was brief, but it was good to see him attacking the line again.
This adds another dimension to the side, the Tigers struggled to mark and defend Shaun, Issac, Roger and David and I think many teams would have issues containing this side when they are in the right mindset.
I'm hopeful that Shaun will be back sooner rather than later but at least Mason Lino can fill the void until his return.

Roger continued his excellent form with my highlight being his spot tackle on David Nofoaluma, he is really showing his commitment to this side, and it is clearly infectious as when he goes up a level the rest of the team follow.
Keeping the Tigers scoreless in the second half was the most impressive aspect of this match for me, the Tigers generally like to come back strong in the second half, and at times they came close to scoring, but the Warriors goal line defence was impressive once again and held them out.
After leaking all those points against the Storm, the Warriors really need to keep the opposition scoring to a minimum, so they get their points differential back up to a decent level.
This season is tight, and every point really does matter.

The game wasn't perfect, and the Warriors still have plenty of room for improvement which leads me to my negatives.

I really only have one, which is the same one I have every week.
Missed tackles are still concerning me, Tohu's return helped protect Peta Hiku, and the scrambling defence is saving them at times.
It's not an end of the world issue, but if Tohu were to get injured again, I would be really nervous about the right edge.

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My Warrior of the game goes to Bunty Afoa.
I have been so impressed with Bunty this season, he has really blossomed into a genuine starting front rower, and he is continuously giving it 100% on all his hit-ups.
He doesn't shrug his defensive responsibilities, and his intensity is the key to his success this year.
The future is bright for Bunty, he's young and hungry and is quickly becoming another cult hero at Mt Smart.
If Sam Lisone and co can bring themselves up to Bunty's level, I think the Warriors pack could become an intimidating outfit.
I look forward to watching Bunty grow in his role at the club, and I can see him develop into a  future leader of the Warriors pack.

Copyright Photo: Photosport
I don't have a Warrior to improve this week, but I want to highlight Karl Lawton.
When Issac injured his shoulder, Karl got 25 minutes to show the Warriors fans what he can offer, and he did not disappoint scoring a double.
What impressed me was his quickness, when he saw an opening he went for it and the Tigers were not quick enough to react.
It was only 25 minutes, but I saw enough to have Karl as the second string hooker for the Warriors if Issac cannot return for next weeks match against the Roosters I believe Karl will not let anyone down if given a chance to start.
At his young age, he could very well be Issac's long-term replacement when Issac either leaves the club or retires (if he re-signs with the Warriors this season).

The win here keeps the Warriors in the Race with the rampaging Dragons at the top of the ladder, and if the Warriors can continue to deliver, they could find themselves in the top spot when the Dragons inevitably get depleted during the Origin period.
The Warriors now have seven wins, the same amount of wins that they managed last season and they show no signs of stopping.
There is still a long way to go in 2018, but I think the Warriors have the potential to go deep into the finals if they can keep consistent and relatively injury free.

Round 10 is the NRL Indigenous round, and the Warriors get their first chance to host as they welcome the Sydney Roosters to Mt Smart.
The Roosters are a dangerous side, but I think the Warriors will be too much for them and I'm picking the Warriors to win by 12.
So that was my take on a triumphant return to the winner's circle, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Would you start Simon Mannering or keep him on the bench?
Who was your player of the match?
Do you think this side will be a top-four side come round 25?
What is your score prediction for Round 10?