Nigel Wall,, NRL.com
With just eight wins in 2012 the Warriors have a long way to go to return to the form that seen them play in the 2011 Grand Final.
Strengths: While plenty of Warriors fans may be questioning the merits of recruiting Matthew Elliott, a coach sacked by his most recent employer Penrith in early 2011, there’s no denying that should Elliott strike a chord with the player roster from the get-go there could be blue sky days ahead for the Kiwi-based side.
It should not be forgotten Elliott guided the Canberra Raiders to four semi-finals appearances in his five years in the nation’s capital from 2002-06 and despite banking a wooden spoon in his first season at the foot of the Blue Mountains and enduring two subsequent lacklustre follow-up seasons, he did mentor the Panthers to second place on the NRL ladder through the regular rounds of 2010. With the Warriors’ board weighing their full support behind Elliott, immediate success could just depend on how the clipboard-holder bonds with his troops.
Queensland Origin centre Dane Nielsen’s acquisition is a coup; his teaming with Konrad Hurrell in the three-quarters, combined with back three Manu Vatuvei, Kevin Locke and Bill Tupou, will deliver one of the most powerful outside backlines in the NRL.
Weaknesses: Coming up with the right combination in the halves. James Maloney’s move to the Roosters leaves the Warriors desperate to find someone who can deliver comparable playmaking skills. Unfortunately their options aren’t exactly overflowing. In a plus, Elliott recently lured promising 20-year-old Harry Siejka from Penrith, although after just a handful of top-level games he will need to prove his credentials to secure an ongoing first-grade presence.
Back from the UK Super League, Thomas Leuluai will push for inclusion at halfback; however that would mean effervescent Shaun Johnson would have to move wider. That’s not an altogether silly option given Johnson’s current roving game – after all, Johnson plays like Benji Marshall, and that is where the Tigers’ great is most damaging. If Siejka wins the battle for the five-eighth jersey it will leave them with a ridiculous amount of talent locked into their hooker rota, with Nathan Friend, Leuluai, Alehana Mara and Pita Godinet on the books. Also, the forwards must take charge more often and not leave it to the flashy backs to deliver each week. In 2012 the Warriors managed just the third-fewest metres (1290) across the park each week.
And Elliott must make defence a priority in the off-season. Their tackling capitulated from Round 19, resulting in eight straight losses to close the year. Overall the Warriors missed more tackles than any other team in the comp (38 a match) and conceded the third-most points (25). If that situation is not remedied then the Warriors can expect another long, fruitless year.