Lightning Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson is enjoying his best season to date in the NRL. Credit: Robb Cox. Copyright: NRL Photos.
The Warriors have been their usual hot and cold selves over the opening 13 rounds of the competition but there's no doubting their improved resolve under new coach Andrew McFadden.
Ladder Position: 12th.
Warriors’ season so far has resembled a rough first draft of a Disney film.
From humble beginnings where they conceded 67 points in their opening two
matches, the Warriors have risen from despair under the guidance of a knight in
shining armour named Andrew McFadden.
Highlights since then have been an Anzac
Day victory over the Storm, and a 54-12 thrashing of the Raiders. But a fairytale
end is still a distant dream for the New Zealand club. With a six-win,
seven-loss record they sit near the foot of the table on 12 competition points
and have failed to string together more than two wins on the trot so far in
2014. In their favour though is the fact they have yet to bank a bye.
attack has been free-flowing and productive, spawning 54 tries in 13 matches
which averages out at four per game. The Warriors get over the line more than
any team in the competition and have shown they can score from anywhere on the
field. With forwards Ben Matulino and Feleti Mateo flourishing under the
guidance of McFadden, the Warriors are getting 10 offloads away per game, and
make more line breaks (63) than any other team bar the Sydney Roosters (67).
Halfback Shaun Johnson has been the standout individual,
making big strides in his defence and decision making to enjoy his best season
to date. After his first 12 games Johnson had run the ball 126 times, for an
average of 8.8 metres per carry, and had served up five line break assists and
four try assists. Big questions were asked about how Johnson would combine with
Sam Tomkins in 2014, the answer so far? Superbly.
changes, feuding owners and players in the headlines for the wrong reasons. No
rugby league fan wants to see that stuff affecting their team’s performance,
but they have been a constant in the background for the club in 2014.
Defensive woes have been another downside, with the New
Zealanders leaking 50 tries, an average of 3.8 per match, across their opening
13 matches. That number puts them down among the worst in the competition in
that category. Lapses in defence are undoing much of the great work they
produce on the other side of the ball; heading into Round 13 the Warriors led
the competition in tries scored, but had a points difference of just 19.
Missed tackles are a big part of it, with the Warriors
coming up with an average of 28 per match. Worryingly they conceded a season-worst
42 in their last outing against Souths, suggesting they aren’t yet on the
Biggest Moment: The
Round 8 victory over the Storm in Melbourne meant more to the Warriors than
just two competition points. Back in 2011 a win in the traditional Anzac Day
clash spurred the club on to a five-game winning streak, in a season which
ended in a grand final berth. With three wins out of five since that game in
Melbourne, the Warriors certainly haven’t reached those lofty heights just yet,
but the win gave the players and fan base a much needed boost in self-belief.
A consultation with the ladder predictor suggests the Kiwi-based club will
finish on 26 or 28 points, which is borderline finals.