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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?


  1. Yes Kata has to go, or improve, I don’t think Beale would have made any mistakes, he angered me by not coming off his line quick enough, leaving Big Ken to defend 2 atacking players
    I think Storm v Roosters
    The overall season has me feeling good, but not quite satisfied
    I think you should cover the Woman Warriors games, and the Tests coming up..... thanks for the good read this season brad

  2. I'm not sure he has it in him to change.
    Storm V Roosters could be a great final.
    That's not a bad assessment, It has been a lot better than the previous 7 years but still lots of work to be done.
    The Woman's games is a good idea, I'm not that familiar with the players but I can see how it goes, I think I will be doing the tests though.
    Thank you for reading this season.

  3. Not only did kata make errors in the play the ball , he also rushed up on defence when all he needed to do was hold the line , this left ken stranded and gifted 2 tries to Penrith. Kata has to go.

    1. Kata not first grade quality in my opinion, I would have preferred Blake Ayshford there instead.

  4. Storm v roosters GF , roosters will win

    1. Roosters have been good all year so that not a bad prediction.

  5. I 100% agree with you about Johnson. He is the only player with a try assist and only player with an offload assist. He had 2 tackle breaks himself and had the 3rd highest number of passes so it wasn't like he wasn't touching the ball. He also had a respectable number of tackles.
    Very few halves would have been able to do much when the whole team was being dominated like that. Panthers were ruthless in the second half and it was amazing that we only conceded 1 more try. Cut the poor guy some slack. Everyone is begging for him to come back when he is off injured because you notice the difference when he isn't there.

    Warrior to improve, definitely Kata once again from me. He just doesn't play smart. Incorrect play the ball, handle error and rushing the line contributed to us not being able to gain momentum. My wing/centre pairings at the start of the season were Fus/Ashford and Hiku/Beale (and I have always been a big Maumalo fan but had him 5th in line, Kata 6th and CNK 7th). After seeing how much Ken has improved, I now think he is one of the most important. Ken/Beale, Fus/Hiku with Ashford 5th, CNK 6th and Kata 7th. Please open your eyes Kearney.

    I'm picking Storm vs either Rabbits or Roosters. The 2 I would like to see in the GF would be Rabbitohs vs Dragons.

    I'm absolutely stoked with how the season went. The team has come such a long way since last year. I have said it a couple of times over the past few days, but 8th doesn't reflect how well we did. 8th makes it sound like we only just scraped in to the finals. We had 1 less win than 1st. That is amazing for a team that came 13th last year. We had more than double the amount of wins and showed real resilience especially after some big losses. My big concern team wise for next year is if we don't resign Luke, we will be screwed if Nate Roache gets injured.

    I agree with Craig McQuoid, some coverage on the Womens League and Test matches would be awesome.

    Cheers heaps for your reviews Brad. Loved reading them each week, and love the passion you have or your team. Up the Warriors!!!!!

  6. Thanks Jason.
    Once the Forwards started going backwards it took Shaun out of the game, none of the backs were able to do much after that happened.
    Not enough has been said in the media about the defensive effort in that second half, watching the game it felt like a lifetime before the Warriors finally got the ball back and I found myself praying for the Panthers to make an error or give away a penalty but it never happened.

    Kata needs to wake up or move on simple as that, I like Ayshford but yes 2019 I would be going with Ken/Beale and Hiku/Fus with Blake still in front of Kata.
    Ken has been fantastic this year and I wrote him off last season so I'm happy to be wrong there, maybe Kata can do the same?

    Storm, Rabbits and Roosters seem to be everyone's picks, I would have loved a Rabbitohs vs Dragons final because that was my prediction when I was a guest of the View from the East Stand Podcast's mid season special, unfortunately they play each other this week so that wont happen.

    The ladder was so close so the 8th position really doesn't reflect the performance, plus throw in that Sharks loss via forward pass, and the games they should have won against the Bulldogs and Titans and they could have been right at the top (every team can play the what could have been game however).
    I was more impressed with the away record myself but will go into more detail in my season review.
    I'm hopeful that Luke will stay on but I don't want the Warriors to break the bank to keep him, if Roache stays injury free he can offer so much to this team but that's only if he can stay fit.

    I'm not as confident in covering the Woman's league but I will give it a try and if I like it will upload it, Test matches are a go for sure though.

    Thank you for reading them each week, the amount of support I have got in 2018 has been amazing and it's great seeing the support the fans and the club themselves have given myself and the other fans that write articles or do podcasts and videos on the team.

    1. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Luke was prepared to take a pay cut to stay on in NZ and see out his career with the Warriors. That's complete speculation on my part, but he has family here as well as being a Dad. Even with a pay drop he would still be earning very good money and could allow his family to settle instead of relocating yet again. He has expressed that he wants to stay on with the club so hopefully they can come to some sort of agreement that benefits both parties.

      I stick to my guns that big Ken wasn't as bad as people made out last year. Drove me nuts the amount of times I read comments about him being lazy and soft. He strongest attribute to the team is his ball carrying. Last year he averaged more metres than this year. That's not a lazy player. Plus the bulk of the tries that were let in last year were because of someone (not naming names) rushing in and leaving Ken to defend against 2 or sometimes 3 players. You could see that he read the plays a lot better this year. He would quite often wrap around the defense when he notices an overlap.

      Our away record certainly was impressive. The Warrior Nation guys would have been loving all the wins in Sydney.

      Can't wait to see Ah Mau in a Warriors jersey. If Paasi, Gavet and Afoa can maintain form, we should be all good. Tevaga definitely needs to be resigned too.

    2. Yeah I hopeful that Luke's family situation will lead to him taking a paycut to stay at the club, it just seems to be a wait and see situation.

      My biggest issue with Ken was his handling errors in 2018, i was happy with the runs he was doing he was just dropping the ball far too much, complete turnaround this season where he seldom made those errors and I think he will continue to grow in 2019.

      The away record is my biggest takeaway for the season for sure, fingers crossed that trend continues in 2019.

      I was dissapointed when he left but he has grown in leaps and bounds at the Dragons and is coming back a seasoned front rower, Paasi and Ah Mau starting the games next year should set up a great platform for the back-line to take advantage of.
      I'm a Gavet fan but Paasi overtook him fairly quickly as my favourite Warrior.
      Yes Tevaga needs to stay on at the club.

    3. We can't look past Chris Satae either. I think he developed well over the season plus he is HUGE. We keep saying that we need more size in the pack. Satae is probably one of our biggest. More time on the field will do him good.

  7. I liked Satae this season, but I was more impressed with Vuna, he appeared very composed for a rookie when given his chance in first grade and is bigger than Satae, but if these young guys can learn from the experienced forwards in the pack the Warriors should have a decent rotation for years to come.