31 hours ago
Price slots straight in
A glance down the list of the New Zealand Warriors' high-priced rugby league recruits over the years would show a wildly fluctuating line graph.
They haven't all come out on the right side of the ledger, money or playing wise.
But Warriors fans can sleep soundly knowing that classy prop Steve Price will be one of the club's best acquisitions in its nine years in the National Rugby League (NRL).
The former Canterbury Bulldogs skipper made his first appearance with his new clubmates in Auckland this week, with the wet, bleak weather a far cry from what he would have been enjoying had he stayed on the other side of the Ditch.
That he didn't, that he opted for a radical change in lifestyle, tells something about the character of the man, who is bigger in the flesh than television suggests.
So does the firm handshake and the look-you-in-the-eye character of the 31-year-old who has forsaken the NRL premiership champions for the club which finished 14th out of 15 this year.
Search for the reason why the 10-year veteran of the big time would make the jump and Price says there's no great secret.
He doesn't look at this year, when they won just six games out of 24. He remembers the previous two years.
In 2002, the Warriors made the grand final, losing to the Sydney City Roosters. A year later they were within one game of being back in the Big Show. Along the way they gave Price's Bulldogs a 48-22 pole-axing in the playoffs.
"I always found the Warriors a team I enjoyed playing against. I knew they were a lot better than this year. Potentially, it's very exciting."
Throw in a couple of the Warriors' Australian old boys in Ivan Cleary and Kevin Campion on the coaching staff - both of whom were integral to the club's two best years - and Price likes what he sees.
"There weren't too many changes from that squad (2002-03) to this year. At the end of the day they were probably only three or four wins away from the top eight.
"Now Tony's (coach Kemp) had a full off-season, the players understand where he's coming from and it's a new direction for the club."
Price began his NRL career in 1994, and at the end of this year had played more than 200 games for the Bulldogs, earned four Kangaroos test caps and had clocked up 16 State of Origin appearances.
In other words, he's been around. So he'll be putting his tuppence worth in during the week then...
"If I'm asked I'd certainly give my point of view, but from what we have been told I'm very positive and right behind the attitude of the coaching staff."
The key is the players all pulling in the right direction. And as for cliques within the squad, forget it. It doesn't work.
One of Kemp's key decisions, likely to be made in the New Year, will be choosing between Price and Kiwis skipper Ruben Wiki for the captaincy.
The quiet word is that Price would happily do the job, and just as happily be senior lieutenant.
One person who reckons his influence would not diminish if he is not skipper is Bradley Clyde.
The former Kangaroos lock spent his last two years in the NRL at the Bulldogs alongside Price. Now football manager at the Bulldogs, he is unstinting in his praise of his old packmate.
"It would be a smart move to make him captain. But he's learnt a lot of things off players and coaches and he'll be able to express that to all the players.
"They'll be able to pick little things off him regardless of whether he's got a 'c' after his name or not," Clyde said.
Clyde has no doubts the Warriors made a smart buy, even if it was at his club's expense.
"His approach is very serious, very professional. He leaves no stone unturned. His attention to detail is exceptional.
"I suppose that's the biggest part that I really appreciate. He's an experienced bloke who teaches young blokes good habits. He's a leader."
This year Price averaged 17 hit-ups, 23 tackles and 160 metres a game.
Clyde said Price had the ability to bend the defensive line, and if the Warriors played switched-on football in the four or five tackles after he had done his hard yards, their backs would prosper on the back of his unspectacular but essential graft up front.
Price hopes to be back in full training in about six weeks, once the brace protecting the repaired left medial ligament is removed and he has done the required strengthening work.
And as for what he wants to achieve in his time at the club?
Consistency of performance, to help out the other pivotal figures around the park and make sure he does his bit to bring the younger players through.
As Clyde put it: "He's an intelligent bloke, he's got aspirations to continually improve himself on and off the field, and he's one of those blokes essential to any successful organisation."
What the Warriors need to a T.