Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
Team captain and halfback Brett Kimmorley wasn't named in the Cronulla Sharks line-up to play against the Vodafone Warriors at Toyota Park on Saturday night.
But Warriors coach Daniel Anderson is preparing his team in case he does. Kimmorley had his jaw broken a month ago and hasn't played since.
"They could well throw in him as a little bit of payback," admits Anderson, in reference to last year when an unnamed Warriors halfback Stacey Jones took the field against the Sharks at Ericsson Stadium after a three-week layoff.
At the time Cronulla coach Chris Anderson expressed surprise at Jones' return and admitted they hadn't planned for it. While the contest between the two playmakers and internationals is always a highlight of Warriors-Sharks encounters, Daniel Anderson expects a difficult match, regardless of whether Kimmorley is playing.
"They always play well against us. At Ericsson this year they should have been up for at last half the game. But they bombed a few tries we got them at the back end of the second half (the Warriors eventually won 23-6)," he says.
"I've never coached a winning team at Shark Park. It doesn't matter where they are on the table or how they performed the week before, I know it's going to be a tough game. The fact they didn't perform so well last week (away to Wests Tigers) will mean a lift in attitude and performance is demanded from them when they return home on Saturday."
Anderson admits his team has struggled away from Ericsson Stadium this season and he's looking for a better effort than their last performance in Sydney when they scrapped by 31-30 against the bottom-placed Rabbitohs.
A positive aspect from their 20-12 win against Manly last weekend was the continuing improvement in back-up hooker Tevita Latu and the solid run-on debut from five-eighth Thomas Leuluai.
"Thomas had a solid defensive game against Manly and didn't look out of place, but we had a bit of a laugh about his lack of contribution on attack," he says. "He's capable of a lot more and I'm sure we'll see it against Cronulla."
The two coaching Andersons are up against each other a week later when the Daniel's Kiwis take on the Chris Anderson-coached Australians in Sydney on July 25.
Competition for Kiwi jerseys is fierce, and Anderson has delayed naming his test squad until Sunday after Round 19 of the NRL is completed.
"By naming a team before the club round, players inevitably start to look after themselves and their mentality and attitude isn't always what it should be. I don't want to do that to other coaches," he says. "Nearly every Kiwi who has come up against us has had a blinder, Paul Rauhihi and Ruben Wiki in particular. So, naming it the day after we take on the Sharks wasn't specifically aimed at getting the Warriors boys fired up and wanting to impress. But if it happens, good."