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2007 promised so much for Warriors fans but in reality, it has delivered little so far. With the inclusion of the Auckland Lions into the NSWRL Premier League comp, many fans first thought was depth. Unfortunately it seems the Lions turned into the punishment team, i.e., the place first graders were banished to if their performances were not up to scratch. So far this season only 1 regular Lions player (albeit a member of the Warriors development squad) has made the jump to NRL, 2nd row forward Corey Lawrie. So that has been a disappointment.
The Warriors were on fire in the early stages of season 07, they knocked over reigning Premiers, the Brisbane Broncos. They accounted for the Eels with relative ease and then, following a couple of losses to the Storm and Sea Eagles, touched up the Cowboys and the Rabbitohs . Confidence in Auckland was understandably high but then the rot started to set in.
The Warriors were beaten at their own game by the Storm in Rd 3 and then pipped at the post by the in-form Sea Eagles in Rd 4. The Sharks just scraped by us in Rd 8 at home and then heart break at Newcastle Rd 9. Both losses by comparatively small margins.
Wests Tigers beat us by 4 and then we were introduced to Monday night footy and the Eels turned the tables on us from Rd 1 and taught us a hard lesson. So although the majority of the Warriors losses were by smallish margins, the last 2 (Eels and Bulldogs) have been significant and must be causing the coaching staff some concern going into the 2nd half of the season.
Players to stand out this season are Steven Price and Logan Swann. Both with vast experience and possession of work ethics that we fans surely hope the younger players will emulate. Price is the leading metre maker in the comp and Swann is right up the top of the list with his tackle count stats. So we have an attacking workhorse in Price and a defending demon in Swann.
Players to disappoint would include Wade McKinnon. He started well early on, copped a 2 match suspension and returned at seemingly half speed in effort and ethic. Manu Vatuvei's hands cost the side dearly vs. Parramatta in Rd 11, but apart from that fall from grace it seemed Manu's fumbling ways had left him. The jury is still out on that one and we will wait and see. Once again, Louie Anderson's discipline (or lack thereof) has shown cause for concern.
Our best win would have to have been the Rd 2 game vs. Broncos and then a complete turnaround a week later when the Storm pulverized us into submission on April fools day.
As mentioned previously, Canterbury Bulls player, Corey Lawrie is our 1 and only debutant this year and although relegated to the bench, he has shown much promise.
The Warriors signed Wade McKinnon, Michael Witt, Michael Crockett and Aiden Kirk this year. McKinnon and Crockett have both rubbed shoulders with the NRL judiciary to the detriment of their team. My vote for most valuable signing would head in Witt's direction. He has impressed with his adaptability and Warriors management have recognized his value, increasing his one year 'trial' contract to include next season (2008) as well. We haven't seen Aiden Kirk in the NRL arena as yet although he looks very promising in Premier League.
The coaching dept at the Warriors is headed by Ivan Cleary. A 2 season veteran who must be complimented on his selection consistency and his no-nonsense approach to non-performers. Ably assisted by local expert, John Ackland, the coaching staff at Beasley Ave is solid and as far as I can see, not going anywhere in the meantime. The Warriors current run of form is not to be blamed on coaching, more a cumulative drop in playing form in some key areas.
Most improved player for this season would be out of 3. Michael Luck has been ultra consistent and his form has continued to improve from the 2nd half of last years season. Jerome Ropati got off to a shocking start, being played out of position in his first game of his season in Rd 8 vs. Sharks, he has improved quickly when back in his accustomed position of 5/8 and is starting to display leadership qualities he was rumoured to possess. Patrick Ah Van is once again showing selectors that he is the man for either fullback or wing position and continues to show improvement each game.
Where will the Warriors finish at the end of the season? I firmly believe they will get over this rough patch they are currently experiencing and make the top 8. Where they go from there is anyone's guess. They are capable of winning the Premiership but they are just as capable of losing it.
They are the Warriors.