In his first article for NRL News, we welcome passionate Warriors supporter Luke Roberts who believes in his side’s ability moving forward. Here is his take on how their season can finish up.
Can the New Zealand Warriors make the NRL Top 4. Yes.
Some of you may find this hard to believe but after seeing the changes and belief in the team over the past 8-10 weeks, I believe they are a genuine chance. Not saying that it will be easy, but with a favourable run home and a team running high on confidence, they become virtually unstoppable.
A turning point for this team was the round 13 loss to the Rabbitohs in Perth. After leading the Bunnies by eight points with thirty minutes to go. they lost composure, energy and spirit to eventually be steamrolled by sixteen points. The team which had endured a rollercoaster ride during the first three months of 2014, mishaps including; a new coach after the dismissal of Mathew Elliot and the public uproar brought along with it; a star player that was struggling to live up to the billing in Sam Tomkins and a spate of team changes and injuries; looking fatigued after four wins in five the bye could not have come at a better time.
Following the round 13 match in Perth, the Warriors faced a five week season defining stretch in which they would have two byes and three home games. Now three weeks later with two home wins against Top 8 opposition and another two points in the bag this weekend, the boys are on the rise. With nine games left and five of those at the Mt Smart fortress, look for the warriors to surge towards the top 4.
The four away games take the Auckland based club to Brisbane, Canberra, Newcastle and Penrith, all teams in which the Warriors will fancy their chances away from home having beaten them all on home soil in 2014. Perhaps the biggest tests in the coming few weeks are the visits of Manly and the Roosters and will give a true indication of where this Warriors side really shapes up against the competitions heavyweights.
For now at least, gaining confidence is the biggest factor for these boys as they look to put together a run similar to 2011 where they got all the way to the grand final after downing both Wests and Melbourne on the road in the finals. So to those of you writing the Warriors chances off already, take the boys from across the ditch at your own peril.
Players to watch: Konrad Hurrell. Lethal with the ball in hand and an expert in breaking both the line and multiple tackles; he does however need to work on his defence a little as missed tackles could prove costly, especially when he charges out of the line.
Shaun Johnson. His movement, quick thinking and kicking game are going to be vital if the Warriors are to continue the march forward. He is one of very few players who can change the game in an instant and is very exciting to watch.
Sam Tomkins. English import that was paid big money to make the move from Wigan and is very slowly starting to show his worth. He brushes off plenty of tackles and is very often in the attacking line, look for him to step up his game in the backend of the season as he continues to adapt.
Ben Matulino. Getting Big Bad Ben back from injury in the next two weeks will help give a lot more go forward to the Warriors. His running metres this season as well as offloads and tackle busts have been huge; and who can forget crossing the chalk three weeks in a row for the first try!