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Warriors 2018 Preview
Years of disappointment have reigned across the Tasman since the Warriors' last Grand Final appearance in 2011 - Andrew Ferguson looks at where the Warriors might possibly improve going into the 2018 NRL season.
The Warriors of 2017 were a copy and paste of seasons past; a stellar squad of players, one dimensional coaching style, defensive lapses and an unwanted ability to constantly throw away games they should win.
With nine rounds to go in 2017, they were just a win outside the top 8, but they ended the season with a depressing run of 9 straight losses to see them in a three way tie for second last. They scored just 1 win outside of Mt Smart Stadium, against the second last Titans.
Sporting arguably one of the best spines in the NRL in 2017, essentially a New Zealand Test spine of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Keiran Foran, Shaun Johnson and Issac Luke, the Warriors attack should have been vastly better. But it seems the playing style of the players is diametrically opposed to the very rigid style of coach Stephen Kearney.
Why they'll win it
On paper, they have the cattle to dominate across most places on the field. They've picked up some great signings, especially up front in Adam Blair, Tohu Harris and Agnatius Paasi, while Blake Green comes in to replace Foran. They've also secured backs Peta Hiku and Gerard Beale.
Kearney needs to let the players have some more freedom, so that they can enjoy their football, which in turn would bring back week-to-week success for the club.
Why they won't
Application. Always application. This is not a suggestion that the Warriors aren't trying, by God they are, but when a game changes on them, their attitude changes and they play with panic.
It's a combination of wanting to win and a desire to play their natural ad-lib style, which they relied on at Junior level, with great success, however is also something that recent coaches have tried to bludgeon out of them.
Veteran half Blake Green really has to shoulder plenty of the play making burden, so that the teams attack stops being so one dimensional. He is definitely the man for the job. If he plays well, it will give Johnson more opportunity to use his magnificent running game more often.
Hooker Issac Luke hasn't really kicked on after moving back home. He's got a batch of new forwards around him, including the Kiwi Test captain. When at the top of his game, he can rip sides apart from dummy half. This needs to be seen again in 2018.
Rookie to watch
17 year old fullback Hayze Perham could well find himself getting game time late in the year, especially if reports of current custodian Tuivasa-Sheck moving to Rugby Union prove true. Light on his feet and great acceleration, he will be very exciting at the back.
Gains | Tohu Harris (Storm), Gerard Beale (Sharks), Leihava Pulu (Titans), Adam Blair (Broncos), Peta Hiku (Panthers via Warrington), Matiu-Love Henry (Norths Devils), Blake Green (Sea Eagles), Anthony Gelling (Wigan)
Losses | Kieran Foran (Bulldogs), Ben Matulino (Wests Tigers), Bureta Faraimo (Hull FC), Charlie Gubb (Raiders), Toafofoa Sipley (Sea Eagles), Ryan Hoffman (Storm), Jacob Lillyman (Knights), Bodene Thompson (Leigh), Manu Vatuvei (Salford), Tuimoala Lolohea (Wests Tigers)