Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
Mid-season madness is about to infect the National Rugby League, but the Warriors are set to avoid the worst of it.
July 1 marks the day that clubs can officially approach off-contract players, but for the Warriors that means just two senior men ? Logan Swann and John Carlaw.
Given the approaching deadline it wouldn't be surprising to see both on the market.
Both command a high salary, particularly Swann who is a 25-test veteran. His form is good, averaging around 30 tackles a game, which has taken something from his attack.
If another club made a big offer the Warriors would have to consider whether to match it. The same applies to Carlaw.
Criticism continues of the decision to cut Ivan Cleary and Kevin Campion. If Swann or Carlaw go it will be for similar reasons ? meeting the salary cap and freeing up money to extend the contracts of up-and-coming talent.
If a club has $A3.25 million ($NZ3.76 million) to spend on wages and 26 players to fit under it, that's what happens.
If a "franchise" player on which a club is built ? such as Stacey Jones, Andrew Johns or Trent Barrett ? costs $A350,000, the club still needs two big-impact props to make ground for him at $A200,000 each, and a couple of second rowers to run off him, also $A200,000 each.
A five-eighth with a kicking game will cost $A220,000 at least. Still required are two powerful centres, a couple of speedy wingers and a fullback who can take high balls and kick goals. All of these cost between $A150,000 and $A200,000 each, depending on game-breaking ability.
Throw in a couple of journeymen and you've got a starting 13 for around $A2.5 million.
The remaining 13 who fill the interchange bench or who are putting pressure on from lower grades have to be squashed into $A900,000 or so.
The Warriors did a great job of re-signing Ali Lauiti'iti, Clinton Toopi, Francis Meli, Jerry Seuseu and others who would have been on the buy-in lists of clubs before their finals run last season.
They've worked smartly in contracting young players such as Lance Hohaia and Vince Mellars for extended periods. They've saved themselves mid-season disruption ? for a couple of seasons anyway.
The signing of Vinnie Anderson and Mellars for two more seasons signals that the price they would be prepared to pay Carlaw will have a set ceiling. Likewise the signing of Eels second rower Danny Sullivan puts a limit on what they will pay to keep Swann.
Those who wonder why Campion was cut from the Warriors should consider why Wayne Bennett cut him from the Broncos in 2000.
By the end of last season it was clear he was being targeted, big forwards were running at him in succession because he was struggling to make one tackle, get back 10m and advance again to make another, and his declining speed left holes.
Those wondering why Cleary was cut should ask themselves why he's not playing elsewhere. Or ask Cleary, who would say he's too old.
The Warriors' one fault was that they didn't sign a goal-kicker who could approach Cleary's 80 per cent-plus average.
Securing the signatures of their young stars and the development squad that provided last season's starters Hohaia, Karl Te Mata and Iafeta Palea'aesina and this season's debutantes Mellars, Tavita Latu and Thomas Leuluai suggests it's a mistake unlikely to be repeated.