The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors



  • This week the Warriors begin their pre-season campaign in Rotorua against the defending champions, and current dynasty in all of Australasian sport, the Melbourne Storm.

    The Storm are who the Warriors have tried to mirror for the past several seasons, with the Mt Smart club hiring everything Storm-related from former players to former coaches in an attempt to become the next NRL powerhouse.

    This has led to promise after promise and failure after failure. Players like Dane Nielsen, Todd Lawrie and Ryan Hoffman have arrived on big contracts with the notion that they would bring a winning culture and work ethic back to the club only to leave with their tails between their legs. Tohu Harris is the latest (you could count Adam Blair and Blake Green too) but by now the fans have grown weary of the wannabe Storm system.

    The Warriors have a lot of flaws but one of the biggest has been their plan of simply trying to mimic other teams (the other club the Warriors copy frequently is the Broncos and with head coach Stephen Kearney, from both Storm and Broncos coaching ranks, on the hot seat, another Broncos coaching disciple, Michael McGuire, is rumoured to be the favoured replacement).

    We hear the soundbites of “improving the culture” and “having the right systems in place” but all that is happening is a club feebly hoping for a culture from another team to work magic on them. That mindset never wins in pro sports.

    You need to realise what your club, players, coaches and management are good at and build from there. Being the Storm isn’t it. Nor the Broncos. And don’t try to be the default national team because that’s a total disaster.

    Can the Warriors make the playoffs? Maybe. But every team has improved their rosters this off-season, especially wooden-spooners Newcastle, so last place is also a possibility heading into the season.

    This season will be defined in the first handful of games. The Warriors need to start playing like Warriors and less like a poor man’s Storm or it will be yet another year of disappointment.

    Kia ora: Peta Hiku (Warrington), Adam Blair (Broncos), Gerard Beale (Sharks), Tohu Harris (Melbourne Storm), Leivaha Pulu (Titans), Agnatius Paasi (Titans), Blake Green (Manly), Matiu Love-Henry (Broncos)
    Ka kite ano: Kieran Foran (Bulldogs), Ben Matulino (Tigers), Jacob Lillyman (Knights), Ryan Hoffman (Melbourne Storm), Toafofoa Sipley (Manly)

    Fullback
    Incumbent: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
    Challengers: Peta Hiku, David Fusitua, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Zac Santo

    Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will enter the season wearing the number one on his back and the © beside his name on the team sheet. However, he isn’t signed for 2019 and there are many rumours out there from South Sydney to the All Blacks. The longer he leaves this undecided, the more of a distraction it will become. Peta Hiku was signed as an insurance policy should Roger the Dodger head back to Sydney or take his talents to rugby union. A capable player who the Warriors tried to sign to a $3 million deal back in 2014, the club gets him for cheaper as the utility back was homesick. David Fusitua and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad are two other alternatives with Fusitua already having a good amount of NRL experience playing at the back. Zac Santo will be the star fullback for the NSW Cup side.

    Wings
    Incumbents: David Fusitua, Ken Maumalo
    Challengers: Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Peta Hiku, Gerard Beale, Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck

    The one thing the Warriors are not lacking this year is outside backs. Following strong form for Tonga, David Fusitua will be back on the wing to start the season. He’s the best finisher the Warriors have and should surpass his total of 12 tries from 2017. Big Ken Maumalo looks to be the most in trouble of losing his position. Maumalo had moments last season where it seemed he was going to fulfil his potential but would then revert back to cement hands and slow footwork. There are better players in this squad. Before the arrival of Hiku and Beale, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was favoured to be Maumalo’s replacement. There is still a chance of that and if last season is anything, Charnze showed he has the nous to play wing, centre or fullback. Expect this 2016 NSW Cup Centre of the Year to be in the line up most weeks. Peta Hiku is another strong wing option but will more likely start the season in the centres with Gerard Beale still recovering from his broken ankle. Roger’s brother Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck will make more of an impact on the Warriors’ social media channels than on the field.

    Centres
    Incumbents: Solomone Kata, Blake Ayshford
    Challengers: Gerard Beale, Peta Hiku, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, David Fusitua,

    The two incumbents from 2017 could both miss out on a starting spot in 2018. Just when he looked to be evolving as a player in 2016, Solomone Kata was horrendous in 2017 to the point he thought about retiring. Now, there was some family tragedy but the NRL waits for no man and a poor preseason could end Kata’s time at the club. Blake Ayshford had a different 2017 season to Kata, proving to be one of the few consistent players. His defence was solid (87% of tackles made) and his offensive output was quite good with five tries while always attempting to set up his wing (unlike Kata). Should be starting in round one but might have to work his way into the line up again.
    Gerard Beale was already penciled in to start at centre but then he snapped his leg at the Rugby League World Cup and is out. Initially it was thought Beale was gone for the season but now they project he might be back to full health around round 12. Peta Hiku will be Beale’s immediate replacement and should do alright as centre is his best position. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and David Fusitua are other worthy challengers to wear #3 or #4 this season. Anthony Gelling is a late off-season signing from Wigan. An above-average player with a sense of humour, Gelling signed as his partner is recovering in Auckland following a nasty car accident. He seems set for NSW Cup duty before looking overseas again in 2019.

    Standoff
    Incumbent: Ata Hingano
    Challengers: Blake Green, Sam Cook, Mason Lino, Peta Hiku

    Following the disaster that was Kieran Foran in 2017 (I think he’ll be a disaster at the Bulldogs too) it seemed the Warriors were content with Ata Hingano at standoff. He is combative and quick and showed in the Rugby League World Cup that he can play if the forward pack is moving.
    The Warriors instead sign Blake Green from Manly and now a 31 year-old journeyman is to partner Shaun Johnson in the halves. Here’s the career of Green: he was terrible early in his NRL career, went to the SuperLeague and shone, came back and has been pretty good since. However, the problem is he was good in Melbourne and Manly. Heck, I would look good playing next to Cooper Cronk or Daly Cherry-Evans! I fear the Warriors might have signed pre-SuperLeague Blake Green thinking they’re getting Cooper Cronk/Daly Cherry-Evans. Be worried.
    Sam Cook has really developed in the NSW Cup and will probably surpass Mason Lino on the Warriors depth chart although both will be playing for a dominant NSW Cup team this season. No first grade.
    Peta Hiku will be the emergency halves man this season (like Tui Lolohea was last season).

    Halfback
    Incumbent: Shaun Johnson
    Challengers: Mason Lino, Sam Cook, Ata Hingano, Nathaniel Roache

    Shaun Johnson will hold the halfback position but following the disaster that was the Rugby League World Cup (“yous got your way”) it looks like every man and his dog is conceding that Shaun Johnson is what he is: a player who can dominate a game only if the forwards are dominating but can’t be relied upon to rally the troops ala Jonathan Thurston if the trenches are being overrun. Mason Lino, Sam Cook, Ata Hingano, Nathaniel Roache all serve as backups to SJ.

    Lock
    Incumbent: Simon Mannering
    Challengers: Adam Blair, Agnatius Paasi, Jazz Tevaga, Leivaha Pulu

    Simon Mannering excels in the lock position with his all-round skills and should do the same again in 2018. Adam Blair is an option for Kearney, but if Kearney’s use of Blair in the Kiwis is anything to go by it seems Blair is destined to play in a make-shift frontrow. That’s good because, in my opinion, Blair plays his worst when at lock. If the coach was to move Mannering back into the secondrow, former Titans players Agnatius Paasi and Leivaha Pulu would be the next options as both have played the position before. Jazz Tevaga, a hooker, could fill the role coming off the bench.

    Secondrow
    Incumbents: none
    Challengers: Tohu Harris, Bunty Afoa, Leivaha Pulu, Matiu Love-Henry, James Bell

    With Ryan Hoffman and Bodene Thompson gone, both secondrow spots will have new inhabitants. Tohu Harris is obviously one starter but who his partner will be is still undecided. The best bet would be Bunty Afoa, a hard-nose player who just runs the ball straight (something the Warriors need more of from their forwards), but the Warriors website has him listed as a prop. Leivaha Pulu, also listed as a prop, could start there too but seems more of a bench option at this moment. The darkhorse could be former Broncos under-20 player Matiu Love-Henry. He was highly touted in Brisbane (the Broncos had to let him go due to salary cap issues) but has arrived in Auckland with little fanfare - which is a good thing for a young player with a point to prove. James Bell is a smaller backrower who did little in his two games for the club last year. NSW Cup for him.

    Frontrow
    Incumbents: James Gavet, Sam Lisone
    Challengers: Adam Blair, Bunty Afoa, Leivaha Pulu, Albert Vete, Isaiah Papali'I, Ligi Sao, Patrick Sipley

    Here is the critical weak point in this Warriors squad. If this team is to have any go-forward in 2018 it will need James Gavet to lead the way. His aggressive, smart style of football is able to get the Warriors moving, opening space for Shaun Johnson, and the team will need plenty of it. I’m not the biggest fan of the Adam Blair signing, but if he can replicate Gavet’s aggressive approach it would help the pack immensely. Sam Lisone is another aggressive ball-carrier but needs to work on his defence if he wants a place in this side. Bunty Afoa, Leivaha Pulu, Albert Vete and Ligi Sao are all frontrow/secondrow hybrids and will contend for the two remaining bench spots - Afoa and Pulu are best of this bunch. Isaiah Papali’l and Patrick Sipley are young talent that will spend large chunks of the season in the NSW Cup.

    Hooker
    Incumbent: Isaac Luke
    Challengers: Nathaniel Roache, Manaia Cherrington, Jazz Tevaga, Sam Cook

    Let’s address the elephant in the room: Isaac Luke has been terrible in his time at the Warriors and the Warriors know this. Luke is playing for another contract this season but should he struggle in the early rounds Kearney, in desperation of course, will turn it over to the young and now extremely muscular Nathaniel Roache. Roache has bulked up this off-season, my take is that it means he will get game time at lock as well as hooker. Manaia Cherrington has moved around several clubs now and finds himself now at the Warriors. He’s skilled but is relying on either Luke or Roache to fall. Jazz Tevaga has dropped down the depth chart but still has potential - if he can stay healthy. Utility Sam Cook will try his luck at hooker in the pre-season games.

    Sneakdefreak’s best 17 for round one:
    1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck © 2.Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 3.Blake Ayshford 4.Peta Hiku 5.David Fusitua 6.Blake Green 7.Shaun Johnson 8.James Gavet 9.Isaac Luke 10.Adam Blair 11.Matiu Love-Henry 12.Tohu Harris 13.Simon Mannering Bench: 14.Nathaniel Roache 15.Sam Lisone 16.Bunty Afoa 17.Leivaha Pulu



  • Great write up Sneak

    Got a good feeling about 2018...going to be our year.



  • @virgil said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    Great write up Sneak

    Got a good feeling about 2018...going to be our year.

    Damn right Virg, they're going for 10 in a row and they're a real chance of achieving this.....

    When I say 10 I mean 10 losses.



  • Been waiting for this write up Sneak, and it’s as thorough as ever. I was beginning to wonder if even you had given up on these buggers though....

    I’ve learnt not to expect anything from this mob, anything more is a nice bonus.

    I had forgotten about the swag of Kiwis they’ve hired though, let’s hope they all have had a rather large bee stuck in their undies all summer.



  • Cracker write up Sneak. Top class as always. Funnily enough even though you are calling a spade a spade (correctly I might add), there is genuine potential in the squad. Agree that depth and talent at prop and standoff are a bit dicey. But if things click..us warriors fans love the word 'if'!!! 🙂 ... I reckon we are starting out mid-table with the potential to press for the business end of the season.

    I've liked what I've seen of Matiu Love-Henry, and am excited to see what Tohu can offer. I'm not fussed about Blair but have consoled myself with the fact he trains well and is clearly fit a/f. Still have doubts about him blowing hot and cold on the field though.

    Do you reckon Tohu has any chance at standoff? Genuine question ha ha I just keeping about players who can assert themselves to give SJ something to work off. If we can get our halves actually driving our pack around with some purpose we are a chance. Fuck... there's that word 'if' again!



  • Oooooh no. No chance. Not reading. Not thinking. No.

    One question, whose career are we ruining this year?

    Why cant we be professional like Melbourne. Have you seen what they've done to Sam Kasiano?

    Roosters to win the comp



  • I don't follow the Warriors - I hate losing too much - but, always read your excellent preview Sneak.

    For several reasons it's probably the post of the year!



  • @mariner4life said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    Oooooh no. No chance. Not reading. Not thinking. No.

    One question, whose career are we ruining this year?

    Why cant we be professional like Melbourne. Have you seen what they've done to Sam Kasiano?

    Roosters to win the comp

    Your question is answered in the write-up you lazy shit.... 🙂



  • @sneakdefreak said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    You need to realise what your club, players, coaches and management are good at and build from there. Being the Storm isn’t it. Nor the Broncos. And don’t try to be the default national team because that’s a total disaster.

    This.

    Forge your own path, harness your own game style, build your own culture and go for it. From memory the great run in the early 2000's was built around freestyle, offloading, slightly risky footy, with blokes like Ali Lautiti just going for it. We need more of that - felt true to the club style.

    also, quality administration helps massively.



  • @no-quarter said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    @mariner4life said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    Oooooh no. No chance. Not reading. Not thinking. No.

    One question, whose career are we ruining this year?

    Why cant we be professional like Melbourne. Have you seen what they've done to Sam Kasiano?

    Roosters to win the comp

    Your question is answered in the write-up you lazy shit.... 🙂

    okay, fuck

    good write up, full of the pessimism we should all feel. That's a desperately poor squad, and looks spoon-worthy.

    Didn't know we signed Agnatious Paasi, he's a player who would have suited the early-2000s Warriors.

    Picking we get Wests Tigers Adam Blair, not Melbourne/Brisbane Adam Blair. And he'll play huge, desperately poor, minutes.
    And yes, it's Tohu Harris's career we are about to fuck.



  • Another good write up as ever Sneak. I do like the non inclusion of Kata in your best 17, sadly I don't think Kearney will feel the same way - and TBF you've replaced him with Hiku who I find meh, but better than Kata.

    After swearing off the Warriors midway through this year, then having the Kiwis debacle I kind of thought I'd let league slide a bit this year, but, funnily enough the Rugby League Live game has kept me more interested than I thought. Plus, there's the odd game at local parks (i.e. not that student Olympic Stadium) that I wouldn't mind going to see.

    Oh well, hope we have a Tigers 2005 or a Panthers 2003 year, where they weren't expected to win and then did it on the back of some good attacking (dare I use the dreaded word) flair.



  • @nepia you've seen who our coach is right? And where he learned his football? The two most dreary coaches in the NRL.

    Attack doesn't win you NRL comps, defense and not making mistakes does.



  • @mariner4life said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    @nepia you've seen who our coach is right? And where he learned his football? The two most dreary coaches in the NRL.

    Attack doesn't win you NRL comps, defense and not making mistakes does.

    I'm hoping, but I know it wont happen. I'm trying to stay positive man. 🙂



  • @nepia said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    @mariner4life said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    @nepia you've seen who our coach is right? And where he learned his football? The two most dreary coaches in the NRL.

    Attack doesn't win you NRL comps, defense and not making mistakes does.

    I'm hoping, but I know it wont happen. I'm trying to stay positive man. 🙂

    don't. that's where the disappointment comes from



  • @nepia surely when it comes to the warriors, expectations should be the basement...and hope they find the fully illuminated stairs up, not the extra super duper secret hidden passage down....

    alt text



  • @nepia said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    After swearing off the Warriors midway through this year,

    Soothsayer???





  • Nah that was a stink write up Sneak 😀

    Despite the negativity (and I counto my own in that), I do like a couple of moves they’ve made this offseason.

    Still concerned about SJ though.





  • "Wayne Smith has taken up a temporary non-paying role "

    One would hope it's non-playing. He's older than me!



  • Warriors win the trial match against Melbourne 20-14. Only thing to really take away is that Solomone Kata hasn't tried to change his game at all in the offseason.



  • @sneakdefreak said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    Warriors win the trial match against Melbourne 20-14. Only thing to really take away is that Solomone Kata hasn't tried to change his game at all in the offseason.

    I'm going to make a bold prediction and say we will finish outside the 8.....



  • @canefan said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    @sneakdefreak said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    Warriors win the trial match against Melbourne 20-14. Only thing to really take away is that Solomone Kata hasn't tried to change his game at all in the offseason.

    I'm going to make a bold prediction and say we will finish outside the 8.....

    As predictable as stating it's the fittest squad that they've ever had, etc 🙂



  • How is the spine looking?



  • @booboo needs a trip to a specialist. A visit to the osteo required at the very least.



  • In a welcome change of pace, pretty much every Aussie commentator is picking us for the spoon. They have finally woken up to the fact that we are, indeed, really shit, not some dark horse waiting shock the comp.

    Perhaps this will also be the year that they stop lazily calling the Warriors a "flair" team. We haven't been that in 10 years.

    Can someone explain to me how the fuck the Roosters are under the cap?



  • @mariner4life said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    Can someone explain to me how the fuck the Roosters are under the cap?

    The players are all buying into success and leaving a legacy for a club they love rather than debasing themselves by trying to earn more than their limited education and modest upbringing prepared them for?



  • @antipodean said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    @mariner4life said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    Can someone explain to me how the fuck the Roosters are under the cap?

    The players are all buying into success and leaving a legacy for a club they love rather than debasing themselves by trying to earn more than their limited education and modest upbringing prepared them for?

    ah yes, the old "everyone is playing for unders" gambit.

    Tedesco, Ferguson, Tupou, Mitchell, Keary, Cronk, Cordner, Napa, Friend, JWH all playing for unders...



  • @mariner4life This is proof that handing out participation awards works.



  • Warriors V Titans preseason game is live on the Warriors site:
    https://www.warriors.kiwi/news/2018/02/23/live-stream--vodafone-warriors-v-gold-coast-titans/



  • Sad news about Steve Folkes



  • @jegga said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    Sad news about Steve Folkes

    A legend at Belmore. They'll be mourning there.



  • Roger Tuivasa-Sheck signs with Warriors for another four years, stopping the rumours once and for all. Great news and probably confirms that RTS is the franchise player now, not Shaun Johnson.

    https://www.warriors.kiwi/news/2018/02/27/breaking-news--tuivasa-sheck-signed-for-four-years/



  • @sneakdefreak Great news. There is an edge to RTS that I have never seen from Johnson.

    I wonder how much the Warriors threw at him with his fake AB's switch talks?



  • @jegga Man that's sad. So young.



  • @raznomore said in The 2018 NRL preview of the Warriors:

    @jegga Man that's sad. So young.

    Yeah , 59 is no age . Any idea why he gave up coaching so young? I expected him to become someone like Wayne Bennett.



  • The lack of noise on here about RTSs re-signing I think sadly reflects the general public’s feeling towards the Warriors at the moment.
    No one really gives a rats as we’re all sick of the hype and no substance.

    A couple of years ago it would have generated a lot more chat and excitement I'm sure.

    Good on them for getting his signature though, but I imagine they’d have had to paid overs to get it.
    Brave move from him.
    A meme I saw on Facebook sums it up nicely with something like ‘You mean I won’t have to play in September, really? Where do I sign’’.



  • The RTS news hides a bit of news the Warriors didn't want to promote: Ata Hingano, mentioned in my preview, has been granted a release from the club (via Newshub).



  • @gunner I can not remember another time when I have been so disassociated with the Warriors. Last year my NRL watching was so minimal I can not remember what games I actually watched and I only watched games the warriors were involved in. This year I had honestly forgotten we picked up Tohu Harris, Gerard Beale, Pita Hiku and Adam Blair let alone Green.

    The Warriors will always be my team * but to be honest the NRL now sits at number 4 in my care factoring. ABs, SR and now NBA all come ahead of the NRL. I can't speak for others but too many shit years have taken their toll on me finally and I am starting to just not give a shit.

    *I left that in there so I can make it back on the bandwagon undetected



  • @raznomore sort of the same, but it happened last year as well. I've finally just accepted that the entire organisation is fucked, and we won't amount to anything. Ever. So why invest my precious, and limited sport watching time.

    We play a lot of shit games, in which we play shit, and often so does the other side. And never at good times because we are not a broadcast drawcard in Aus.

    I probably watch more Cowboys games now, because they are good to watch, and play at primetime a lot (not as much as the dour and frankly ordinary Broncos, but you know, Brisbane viewing figures...).

    Still watch more AFL than league.

    Like you, I'll never not be a Warriors guy, but...


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