2022 review: Warriors

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Steps forward off the field, steps sideways on the field the story of another mediocre season for the Warriors.

The Warriors were not expected to compete for the premiership or even a finals berth in 2022. If you told their long suffering fans that they'd win 6 games and finish in the bottom four, they'd probably shrug their shoulders, say "sounds about right" and move on with their day.

Really, what else do you expect from a team coached by Nathan Brown, with a huge injury toll in the forward pack for the majority of the year, all while playing more than half of their home games in a different country? Obviously, everyone would prefer if their on-field product was a little better. But in essence, 2022 was a successful year for the Warriors as a club; they made their long-awaited return to New Zealand, moved on from a terrible coach and turned over their roster to ensure that only players who actually want to play where the team is based remain.

While their future looks as bright as it has in a while, there's no escaping the fact that, while moves were made that will benefit the club in the long term, season 2022 in a vacuum for the Warriors was a bit of a circus.

Let's start with the on-field product. They actually got off to a pretty hot start, going 3-2, including wins over the Broncos and Cowboys. They would've been 4-1 if they hadn't lost to the Titans by two points in Round 2. Unfortunately, their next three wins would be accumulated over 20 rounds. This would imply a massive losing streak, one that lasted seven games to be precise.

Of all the losses, the most embarrassing came in Round 7 on Anzac Day against the Storm to the tune of 70 points to 10. What's crazy about that game is that they were actually still in the contest at half time, facing a six-point deficit heading into the sheds - and at times looking like a very capable football team. That of course changed in the second half as Melbourne piled on 54 unanswered points in just 40 minutes of play. It was a low point, but they dug deep the following week to pull a one-point win against Canberra out of the fire. The seven-game losing streak would begin after that.

In the middle of said losing streak, the Warriors fired coach Nathan Brown after a dismal 44-12 drubbing at the hands of the Manly Sea Eagles (technically, Brown resigned, but given the bizarre reasoning of "I don't see myself moving to New Zealand," I think we can read between the lines). It was an extremely predictable scenario from the moment he was announced as the man to take over in late 2020. The team went backwards under Brown, just as the Knights did in the years prior, and to this day, Todd Payten deciding to turn down the offer from the Warriors and head up to coach the Cowboys remains one of the bigger "what if" moments in recent history.

Turning Point

July 3 - Warriors 22 Wests Tigers 2 @ Mt Smart Stadium

While there were a lot of lows for the Warriors in 2022, they and their fans also experienced what was probably their best moment since qualifying for the 2011 Grand Final when a tick over 26,000 footy deprived Kiwi fans packed into a sold-out Mt Smart Stadium to watch their team play a true home game for the first time since 2019. It's lucky there the stadium doesn't have a roof, because it would've come right off after the reception the Warriors faithful gave their boys as they ran out onto the hallowed turf. Unsurprisingly, they had a big, 20-point win over the Tigers. Despite the small sample size, it's clear the return home gave the Warriors a much-needed mental boost, winning 50% of their games there compared to 20% of their games away from there.

What Worked

When a team comes 15th, it's going to be a challenge filling in the "what worked" section of a season report. Nonetheless, I will try. Hooker Wayde Egan showed signs of improvement, acting as the Warriors' general in attack in numerous games while also averaging a strong tackle efficiency of 92.6%.

What Didn't Work

There were a lot of disappointment on the paddock for the Warriors. Their forward pack significantly underperformed throughout the season as the team ranked 16th for both all run metres and post contact metres, which made things even harder for returning cult figure Shaun Johnson, whom I love as a player, but must also be say that he regressed badly in 2022, throwing several intercepts at inopportune times as well as generally making the wrong decision late in the tackle count. 

RoundDateDayH/AOppositionVenueCrowdRank
1Mar 12thSat 5:30pmH NSt Geo IllaL16-28Sun Coast5,38212th
2Mar 19thSat 3:00pmAGold CoastL18-20CBUS13,48115th
3Mar 25thFri 6:00pmAWests TigersW16-12C'town7,18212th
4Apr 2ndSat 3:00pmHBrisbaneW20-6Redcliffe9,6207th
5Apr 8thFri 6:00pmHNorth QldW25-24Redcliffe6,2547th
6Apr 17thSun 2:00pmASydneyL14-22SCG11,2679th
7Apr 25thMon 6:00pmAMelbourneL10-70AAMI22,69611th
8Apr 30thSat 3:00pmHCanberraW21-20Redcliffe6,32611th
9May 8thSun 4:00pmACronullaL10-29Pointsbet9,91510th
10May 14thSat 3:00pmH NSouthsL30-32Suncorp46,45411th
11May 21stSat 3:00pmASt Geo IllaL18-24Netstrata7,14713th
12May 28thSat 3:00pmHNewcastleL16-24Redcliffe4,26512th
13Jun 4thSat 7:30pmAManlyL12-444 Pines9,24814th
14Jun 12thSun 6:00pmHCronullaL16-38Redcliffe3,56014th
15Jun 18thSat 5:30pmHPenrithL6-40Redcliffe8,12715th
16Jul 3rdSun 2:00pmHWests TigersW22-2Mt Smart26,00913th
18Jul 15thFri 7:55pmAParramattaL18-28CommBank12,27913th
19Jul 23rdSat 3:00pmACanberraL14-26GIO11,91513th
20Jul 29thFri 8:00pmHMelbourneL12-24Mt Smart18,39514th
21Aug 6thSat 3:00pmA NSouthsL10-48Sun Coast8,91115th
22Aug 12thFri 6:00pmHCanterburyW42-18Mt Smart16,21214th
23Aug 19thFri 6:00pmANorth QldL4-48QLD C.B.17,40414th
24Aug 26thFri 6:00pmAPenrithL12-46Bluebet17,02514th
25Sep 3rdSat 5:00pmHGold CoastL26-27Mt Smart20,51215th

Best Player

The aforementioned Wayde Egan had comfortably his best season in first grade and was the standout for the Warriors in terms of consistency along with Euan Aitken, who found an unlikely home in the back row for stretches. Tohu Harris also impressed whenever he was on the field as he always does, but he unfortunately missed much of the season due to injury.

Rookies

The Warriors only had one player make his NRL debut for them in 2022, that being Ronald Volkman who came across in a mid-season transfer from the Roosters. He is a highly touted young five-eighth who could will no doubt be given an extended opportunity at some point in 2023.

PlayerAgeAppTGFGPtsBinOff
AFOA, Bunty26241--41-
AITKEN, Euan27213--12--
ALE, Tom234------
ARTHARS, Jesse24125--20--
ASI, Daejarn2282--8--
BERRY, Rocco217------
CURRAN, Joshua23184--16--
EGAN, Wayde25204--16--
FONUA-BLAKE, Addin26211--4--
FREI, Jackson242------
HARRIS-TAVITA, Chanel231711-6--
HARRIS, Tohu30151--4--
JOHNSON, Shaun3121314242--
KATOA, Eliesa22153--12--
KOSI, Edward23118--32--
LODGE, Matt278------
LUI, Dunamis324------
LUSSICK, Freddy2211------
MONTOYA, Marcelo26186--241-
MURCHIE, Jack25143--12--
MURDOCH-MASILA, Ben3111------
NIKORIMA, Kodi2851--4--
OTUKOLO, Taniela206------
PENE, Aaron2614------
POMPEY, Adam24195--20--
SIRONEN, Bayley2513------
TAYLOR, Ash271------
TEVAGA, Jazz26171--4--
VAILEA, Viliami19107--28--
VOLKMAN, Ronald202------
WALSH, Reece2022248-104--
WATENE-ZELEZNIAK, Dallin27189--36--
32 players25.27247063240820

Looking Ahead

The Warriors have made some major personnel changes for 2023 that will have fans hoping (praying) a return to the finals is on the cards. Reece Walsh (Broncos), Euan Aitken (Dolphins) and Chanel Harris-Tavita (travelling) are their three most significant losses, while depth pieces Eli Katoa, Jack Murchie and Daejarn Asi are also moving on. Their gains are solid if not breathtaking, with Marata Niukore, Dylan Walker, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Te Maire Martin the biggest names on the inclusion list.

The appointment of Andrew Webster as head coach is one that the Warriors simply can't afford to go wrong. Since 2011, they have had 10 different coaches (including caretakers), the most in the league during that time by a landslide. With a new-ish group of players, it will be interesting to see what Webster can do in his first year on the job. While the Warriors won't win the premiership in 2023, their long suffering fans should b cautiously optimistic of making a run to the finals for the first time since 2018.

2023's Best 17

1.     Te Maire Martin
2.     Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
3.     Adam Pompey
4.     Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
5.     Marcelo Montoya
6.     Ronald Volkman
7.     Shaun Johnson
8.     Addin Fonua-Blake
9.     Wayde Egan
10.  Tohu Harris
11.  Marata Niukore
12.  Josh Curran
13.  Jazz Tevaga

14.  Dylan Walker
15.  Mitch Barnett
16.  Ben Murdoch-Masila
17.  Bunty Afoa


Statistics: Rugby League Project