New Zealand Warriors captain Steve Price has taken a swipe at media commentators writing his team's NRL chances off because of the injury to Wade McKinnon.
The Auckland-based team had their odds for the competition lengthened following fullback McKinnon's season-ending knee injury in the their first pre-season trial against the Newcastle Knights on February 15.
But Price, last season's leading metre-maker, said the team should not be cast aside so quickly.
"It disappoints you sometimes to see the media writing the squad off because one player doesn't make the team," Price said at the club's season launch.
"There are 17 players every week who are going to represent the Warriors and I know that the coaching staff and everybody involved in the club is very confident that those 17 players each week will do the very best job they possibly can."
McKinnon's injury has handed New South Welshman Aidan Kirk a chance to play his first NRL match in the season opener on Monday against reigning champions the Melbourne Storm and Price said he would relish the chance.
"When an opportunity is given some guys take those opportunities and make the most of them," Price said.
"I was one of those kids a few years ago who got an opportunity on the back of some unfortunate situation for another player, or in the right spot at the right time, and I wouldn't be here today if I didn't take that chance."
Kirk turns 22 the day before the match and would give his absolute best, Price said.
The Warriors had a very good 2007, qualifying fourth before losing both playoff matches to Parramatta and North Queensland, and Price said there were high expectations.
"Mentally we're a lot stronger. The Warriors have always been known to lose games from brain explosions, but I think last year we put that to bed a little bit," he said.
"Our biggest challenge is to back up what we did last year. The Warriors' history has been a bit of a heart beat - there's been a bit of success, there's also been some terribly low lows, and I think that's the biggest thing that our challenge is going forward."
Few pundits expect the Warriors to beat Melbourne on Monday but Price was more than hopeful.
"We've got the premiers from last year first up, and they're exactly that - they're last year's premiers, not this year's premiers."