Position after 13 rounds: 6th
Competition points: 16
It took them a while to get going but the Warriors seem to have warmed into the 2011 season. When the boys from across the ditch lost their opening three games there was plenty of concern for a side many tipped as title contenders following a strong 2010. They were somewhat unlucky to be dumped from the finals last year after the opening week, so they have redemption on their minds this season.
Since their poor start the side have won seven of nine matches, including a run of five straight before last weekend’s close loss to the Roosters. They are in the enviable position of having more home games than trips away in the run home, making this a season for the taking if they continue to power forward with improvement.
The new buys have gelled well; the team have experienced some injuries but nothing life-threatening at this stage. Certainly their destiny is in their hands.
Are Things Going To Plan? The Warriors would be happy they have re-established themselves as a top-eight side so far this season – but they know they have plenty left to work on.
For starters, they’re not scoring enough points. With 18.6 a match they are ranked 10th but thankfully their fifth-ranked defence only concedes 16.7 a game. They are equal first in the NRL when it comes to offloads, pumping out 14.4 a game but have problems in a handful of areas. They concede the fourth-most offloads, the sixth-most metres and fifth-most line-breaks.
While their defence has been okay, worryingly they rank second worst for missed tackles, notching more than 37 a game. They can’t keep missing and hoping their scramble will always work.
What we can garner from these poor ratings is the side has found a way to win regardless. If they continue their improvement they’ll be a real contender.
Injury Front... As seems to be the case most seasons, Manu Vatuvei missed game time – but he’s back now. Jerome Ropati busted his knee and is done for the year while Aaron Heremaia, Brett Seymour, Sam Rapira and Ukuma Ta’ai have also got some concerns but hope to be back soon.
If Only… The side had turned up at the beginning of the year. The Warriors were extremely slow out of the blocks, losing to the Eels, Wests Tigers and Dragons before getting wins over the struggling Sharks and Roosters. A further loss to the Sea Eagles then seemed to shift them into gear.
The opening round loss to the Eels was a poor one, as the Eels barely threw anything at them. A pedestrian Parramatta side that didn’t throw a single offload still prevailed by six.
The following week the Warriors were pretty unlucky against the Tigers, considering referee Alan Shortall awarded the Tigers a try, which clearly wasn’t on replay, and they won by eight.
The 13-point loss to the Dragons remains their heaviest defeat and was probably the only match they didn’t look like winning at some stage.
Who’s Flying… No individual has taken this season by the horns; instead they are collectively coming together to make things happen. But Feleti Mateo is coming along nicely in his new jersey. He is averaging 112 metres, has four try assists, five line-break assists, two line-breaks and 38 offloads. James Maloney is the Warriors’ line-break machine with eight so far, while Krisnan Inu is their leading tryscorer with six.
Needs To Lift… They’ve been pretty solid recently, even if they couldn’t penetrate the Roosters last weekend. But coach Ivan Cleary would no doubt be wanting more from his forwards, especially in attack.
Mateo and Lewis Brown are the only guys who’ve spent some time in the forwards who average more than 100 metres gained. While they are sharing the workload across the board and are running sixth in metres gained overall, it’s still unusual for not a single guy to take the lead.
Also, the halves need to create more to ensure the pointscoring improves. When they come up against the tough defences of the Dragons, Storm, Broncos etc they are going to need ways to crack them.
Vice-captain Micheal Luck tells NRL.com… “We expect more from each other now; we’re a group that has got collectively older over a number of seasons. You don’t want to let anyone down and the guy beside you feels the same. We’re in a good patch… but it’s only early.”
Predicted Finish… For the Warriors, the next six weeks will determine just how high, or low, they will end up in 2011. They have a bye in this period and four of five home games. The only away trip is to the Cowboys and it is post-Origin II so maybe they’ll come up against a tired Thurston – a bonus. Home games against Wests Tigers, Melbourne, the Titans and Bulldogs make up the run. If they want to make a decent charge at the top four they’d want to jag four of those five games. If they win three of four they are well on their way to the finals; anything less and they will be in the dogfight in the middle of the pack.
They look good for a finals berth… think fifth to eighth.
Under-20s… The Warriors are the Toyota Cup pacesetters at the halfway point of the season. As the reigning premiers the club looks capable of being the first to win multiple Toyota Cup crowns. They have won 10 games, losing just two and have a +232 differential. The side scores an average 39.3 points a game, phenomenal stuff. Fullback Omar Slaimankhel has been the standout: he leads the competition for tries scored (14) and line-breaks (13) while adding 53 tackle busts.