After weeks of rumour and speculation, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have finally confirmed the sign...
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The Warriors have always been a punter's nightmare and 2011
was no different.
After kicking off their season with three consecutive losses, a grand final berth certainly did not appear on the horizon, but some clever positional changes from Ivan Cleary saw his side do what they do and pull of a string of upsets to storm up the competition ladder. The Warriors began their rampage with a win against minor premiers the Melbourne Storm - the first of six consecutive victories.
The second half of the season saw the Warriors producing some mixed results. Beginning with four consecutive losses from rounds 13 to 16, before a bye in round 17 helped the team get back on track as they climbing up the ladder on the back of four wins in a row. The Warriors took out three of their final five matches of the regular season to finish sixth.
Going into the finals the Warriors were far from convincing and after going down 40-10 to the Broncos in week one of the play offs the Warriors looked to be heading for an early exit. However the Warriors proved why they can never be written off the following week as they defeating the Tigers 22-20 in a nail biter, with Krisnan Inu scoring the match winning try in the final five minutes of the match. The Warriors were a lot more convincing in their grand final qualifying match as they kept the Melbourne Storm scoreless in the second half to take out the match 20-12.
In their final match for 2011 the Warriors managed to dig deep, producing a mammoth effort to stay in the match until the dying minutes of the game.
With so many young players who will no doubt be wiser after a grand final appearance a good foundation has been set for the future of the team. As a side the Warriors improved dramatically throughout the season as the team began to work better together and young players came of age.
The Warriors made the grand final in all three grades in 2011 and there is no doubt they have the depth which they had been lacking in past seasons.
While the Warriors showed dramatic improvements throughout 2011 they produced more than the odd poor performance. A lack of discipline from their centres and wingers and poor service from dummy half stifled the side's performances and kept them from a more consistent season.
Young fullback Kevin Locke came of age in 2011, the young fullback proved to have some of the safest hands in the competition no matter how high the pressure. Locke's darts from dummy half and consistently strong kick returns kept the pressure on opposition playmakers.
Rookie halfback Shaun Johnson quickly became a star for the Warriors, combining with five-eighth James Maloney to produce one of the most effective half parings in the competition. The kiwi-halfback's kicking and passing games constantly had the opposition on their heels and the Warriors over the try line.
Bustling back rower Elijah Taylor was continuously called on by Coach Ivan Cleary to fill in for an injured team mate and the rookie Kiwi was always up to the task. Slotting into the centres or the back row, Taylor's consistent performances, utility value and heavy workload saw him earn a Test Jumper in 2011.
The Warriors have managed to keep most of their key players for 2012 but with a new coach taking the reins predicting how the Warriors will fare in 2012 is still a foolish pursuit.
Gains: Coach: Brian McClennan, Nathan Friend (Titans)
Losses: Coach: Ivan Cleary (Panthers), Lance Hohaia (St Helens), Brett Seymour (Hull FC), Jeremy Latimore (Dragons), Aaron Heremaia (Hull FC), Joel Moon (Salford), Adam Henry (Roosters), Shaun Berrigan (Raiders), Issac John (Wakefield), James Gavet (Bulldogs), Anthony Gelling (Wigan), Sosaia Feki (Sharks)
Best 2012 Lineup
1 Kevin Locke, 2 Bill Tupou, 3 Jerome Ropati, 4 Krisnan Inu, 5 Manu Vatuvai, 6 James Maloney, 7 Shaun Johnson, 8 Sam Rapira, 9 Nathan Friend, 10 Jaccob Lillyman, 11 Feleti Mateo, 12 Simon Mannering, 13 Michael Luck
Interchange: 14 Elijah Taylor, 15 Russell Packer, 16 Ben Matulino, 17 Lewis Brown