Mid-season Report Card: Warriors

WARRIORS
Mid-season Report Card


Position after 13 rounds: 12th
Wins: 4
Draws: 1
Losses: 7
Points: 11
Points diff: -56

With grand finalists Manly and Melbourne losing players, and Kiwi legend Stacey Jones coming out of retirement, the Warriors headed into the 2009 season with many tipping them as the dark horses to win the competition. Halfway there and no side has been as disappointing as the men from across the Tasman.

Coach Ivan Cleary claimed last month that perhaps his players weren’t as good as they thought they were but the fact is that their slide has been as unexpected as it has been dramatic. Two wins from their opening two games, including a thrilling comeback result against the Sea Eagles at Brookvale, appeared to have the Warriors well on their way but remarkably they have won just two of their 10 games since.
 
Jones, although lacking some of the zip he once possessed, has impressed yet aside from his occasional flashes of brilliance this once superb attacking force suddenly appears allergic to the tryline. Even with captain Steve Price making his usual bucket-load of metres, they have struggled to make an impact up-front while the likes of fullback Wade McKinnon and barnstorming winger Manu Vatuvei have barely been sighted – certainly not in the devastating manner to which fans have become accustomed.

Hope isn’t yet lost: the Warriors have made an art form out of late-season charges and they boast the talent to do so… but they can’t afford to wait too much longer to hit their straps.

Are Things Going To Plan? More worrying than the Warriors’ loss of form is the fact that there is no obvious reason why. Yet they find themselves a full five points behind eighth-placed Newcastle after 13 rounds and will readily admit it is not where a side boasting so much raw ability should be. One problem area has been the five-eighth role, which has been shared between the likes of Joel Moon and Nathan Fien this season without any great success. They need to click into gear sooner rather than later.

Injury Front… The loss of representative centre Brent Tate to a season-ending knee injury in Round 3 was a cruel blow and one that has clearly impacted on the Warriors’ attack. Tate is the club’s most experienced and damaging outside back and they could use his nose for the tryline.  

If Only… The Warriors’ 12-11 loss to St George Illawarra in Round 8 will haunt coach Ivan Cleary until the day he dies. Leading 11-8 with just over 10 minutes remaining, centre Jerome Ropati dropped the ball with the line wide open, the Warriors then giving away a series of costly penalties to help piggy-back the home side down the other end of the field. The final penalty of the game – given away by captain Steve Price – led to the winning Dragons try as Ben Creagh crashed over out wide.  

Who’s Flying… Captain Price continues to defy father time with some big metres through the middle. Price has averaged over 150 metres per game including a remarkable 223 in his side’s Round 13 loss to Cronulla – just four days after representing Queensland in the State of Origin opener.

Needs To Lift… Centre Jerome Ropati has suffered from severe handling problems this season and looks anything like the match-winner that, at his best, can slice a side apart at will. He single-handedly cost the Warriors one game but has appeared sloppy and uninterested for much of the season.

Ivan Cleary Tells NRL.com… “It’s not where we intended to be. We were built up so much at the start of the year and this is what can happen in the NRL. The comfort is that we’ve been here for the past three years and have always managed to steer our season around. It’s a matter of getting a few things right and building some momentum. We’ve got a big problem scoring points at the moment which is a bit foreign to us – we’ve never really had that problem before.”

Predicted finish… The Warriors have the ability to sneak into the eight but they need to find their feet quick smart if they are any chance.

Under-20s… The Warriors find themselves in eighth spot after 13 rounds and in the middle of the fight to secure a finals berth, but more importantly they boast a handful of players the club sees as impressive long-term prospects. One of those is Elijah Taylor – a skilful back-rower who has been playing at five-eighth in recent weeks. “Without a doubt he is an NRL player of the future,” Cleary said.

“The fact that he is playing five-eighth at the moment will probably benefit his development for the future. I love his attitude, he has a great engine, he is incredibly enthusiastic and is a standout for that team each week.”