Home Record: 7 wins, 5 losses (Equal 7th)
Away Record: 7 wins, 5 losses (Equal 3rd)
Best Winning Streak: 5 (Rounds 14-19) Equal 1st
Longest Losing Streak: 3 (Rounds 6-8) Equal 4th
Players Used: 27
Player of the Year: Manu Vatuvei
Tries Conceded: 84 (Equal 4th)
Lost 28-16 v Titans to finish seventh.
Last year was nothing short of tragic for the Warriors, both on and off the field. The side finished 2009 in 14th place and had no less than 12 players departing the club, with only three major signings for the 2010 season.
So when the Kiwi unit had won only five of their first 12 games, it looked like another year to forget – but as the club reeled off nine of their final 12 games to charge into the finals, it was clear the Warriors had shaken off the demons of last season.
However, injuries again featured as a major factor – most notably the loss of captain Steve Price – but that only gave more exposure to some of the young talent at the club, giving Ivan Cleary a big positive to take from the year.
The manner of the side’s exit from the finals, unexpectedly going out in Week One due to the upset wins by lower-ranked sides, was a disappointing end for the fans and players, but 2010 will be remembered as the year the Warriors turned the corner and gave the NRL a serious shake-up.
Where They Excelled… It always used to feel a bit hollow being given the ‘improvement’ award at school, but the turnaround of the Warriors’ away form was outstanding in this regard.
In 2009, the team won only two games (17 per cent) on Australian soil all year, but amassed seven wins (58 per cent) during this year’s regular season. Only the Dragons and Roosters finished the season with more away wins.
Although the side was unable to continue that form against the Titans in their qualifying final, the club finally put to bed the idea that they couldn’t win across ‘the ditch’, and the players will gain great confidence from their ability to travel anywhere and take the points.
The side also finished the season with the third-best defensive record in the competition.
Where They Struggled… While their form in the second half of the year was excellent, they were severely let down by their first 12 games.
After winning only five games by the mid-point in the season, the Warriors had put unnecessary pressure on themselves to finish strongly, and while they eventually did so, they spoiled their chances of finishing higher on the ladder and claiming a home qualifying final, which could have made all the difference.
The team also struggled to break the line throughout the year, ranking 13th in the competition for line-breaks. Also, at times they seemed unable to capitalise on broken play.
Missing In Action… Where do you start? The Warriors were once again given a tough run with injuries, with key players missing time throughout the year: captain Steve Price, new captain Simon Mannering, Brent Tate, Manu Vatuvei, Brett Seymour, Jacob Lillyman, Jerome Ropati, Elijah Taylor, Sam Rapira, Kevin Locke, Ian Henderson, Micheal Luck, to name a few.
Turning Point… After a heavy defeat to the Tigers in Round 12, losing 50-6, and a narrow loss at home to the Dragons the following week, the Warriors went into their Round 14 clash away to the Knights under serious pressure. They sat 11th on the ladder and had only won three games from their seven at home. The side won 32-24, sparking a five-game winning streak that turned around their season and got people in New Zealand excited about the Warriors again.
Best Games… When the 10th-placed Warriors faced the 6th-placed Roosters in Round 16, nobody realistically expected the New Zealand side to win. The Roosters were at full strength, while the Warriors were missing Tate, Rapira, Price, Lillyman, Patrick Ah Van, and halfback Brett Seymour.
The Roosters led 12-8 at halftime and looked on the way to victory, but the Warriors rallied late in the second half, scoring two converted tries in the final six minutes to steal an incredible 20-18 victory.
Worst Games… The side entered their Round 20 encounter with the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium riding high on momentum and looking for their sixth consecutive victory. The club led 20-10 at half-time but inexplicable allowed the Rabbitohs back into the game after the break with five second-half tries.
The final score read 38-28, and the loss brought the Warriors back down to earth with a thud. The looks on the players’ faces in the dressing room afterwards said it all.
Hold Your Head High… Despite missing some games through injury, Manu Vatuvei had a season he won’t forget. ‘The Beast’ scored 20 tries from 19 appearances and averaged an impressive 121 metres per game.
The new halves pairing of James Maloney and Brett Seymour was also a revelation, with the two combining for 26 try assists. Nobody outside the club expected either player to shine, particularly Maloney (10 tries, two 40/20 kicks) who put in a strong case for the club’s player of the year.
The other key members of the team’s ‘spine’, Lance Hohaia and Aaron Heremaia, also gave the club’s fans much to cheer about. Heremaia looked settled at hooker and contributed eight try assists, while Hohaia’s permanent return to fullback was a blessing in disguise. He finished the year with 120 metres per game, 91 tackle-breaks, six tries, and seven try assists.
The form of Russell Packer and Simon Mannering was also a big boost.
Coach Ivan Cleary says… “We’re still getting over the disappointment of dropping out in the first week of the finals. Realistically it’s been a good season for us, and finishing fifth in the regular season is an achievement. Basically most of our players have improved from last year, so whenever that happens, it’s been a success.”
Conclusion… Unless you win the premiership it’s going to be a disappointing end to the season for every team, but the Warriors’ shock exit in the first week really was a letdown for everyone who hoped they could go further.
However, there were low external expectations on the team at the start of the season, so finishing 5th on the ladder at the end of the regular season was a definite achievement.
There are a lot of positives to take into next year – despite the retirement of Steve price and losing Brent Tate to the Cowboys they have picked up Feleti Mateo and Krisnan Inu from the Eels – and barring unforeseen injury woes, the Warriors have the ability to rise even higher in 2011.