Ryan Hoffman is on the way, but what will the Warriors' spine look like in 2015? Below are the five key questions that need answering ahead of the 2015 season.
1. Is Andrew McFadden the answer?
Throughout the Warriors' turbulent NRL history, only Ivan Cleary seems to have emerged unscathed from the revolving door that is the club’s head coaching role. McFadden inherited a squad plagued by inconsistency when Matt Elliott was shown the door just five rounds into 2014 and he turned things around pretty quickly. At one stage they were looking like certain finalists but the wheels came off again to an extent. With a chance to leave his mark on the roster we'll get a better idea whether McFadden is the right fit for the enigmatic Kiwi club over the course of 2015.
2. Will the Warriors ever pick the same 17 two weeks in a row?
One perplexing aspect of the 2014 season – and it's not a new phenomenon – is the club’s habit of swinging players in and out of the first grade 17 almost regardless of performance. Feleti Mateo was up and down from NSW Cup almost on a weekly basis for a time mid-season, while Kiwi Test hooker Siliva Havili could be forgiven for not knowing where he stands in the pecking order. The likes of John Palavi and Tui Lolohea, while young, seemed to be discarded overly quickly early in the year. Konrad Hurrell was amazingly left to languish in NSW Cup for a period and his hard-running game was sorely missed by the top squad. We could go on, but the lack of continuity isn't ideal, especially when clubs are forced to make weekly changes due to injury.
3. What is the best playmaking combination?
Speaking of continuity, the club needs to settle on a playmaking roster and stick to it. Shaun Johnson is clearly the No.7 and Sam Tomkins looks like the best option at fullback, especially with Kevin Locke having left the club. Thomas Leuluai is clearly in the club's plans moving forward having recently signed a contract extension, but does he start at hooker in place of Nathan Friend, displace Chad Townsend at five-eighth, or play a utility role off the bench? Tui Lolohea is a fullback or five-eighth in the making, and Tomkins could be trialled in the halves if McFadden wants to use Lolohea, Glen Fisiiahi or David Fusitua at fullback. McFadden is sure to tinker with the spine during the 2015 pre-season.
4. How much difference will Ryan Hoffman make?
Storm premiership-winner, and 2014 Origin series-winning Blues forward Ryan Hoffman brings a winning culture with him to the Warriors in 2015. He should start every game for which he is available in the back row next year (although this seemingly isn't guaranteed – refer to question two) and, along with Simon Mannering, the pair will add some cool heads to the Warriors' frenetic, Jekyll-and-Hyde style of play. Lauded as one of the best clubmen you'd ever play with, Hoffman draws praise from teammates wherever he goes, rarely has a bad game, and often saves his best for the big stage. He could potentially be one of the buys of the year, but it will be interesting to see how he fits into the Warriors’ structures.
5. Can the Warriors convert their junior success?
The Warriors under-20s side has featured in four of the past five NYC grand finals, winning three of those. The senior side has made the finals just twice in the past six years (with a losing grand final in 2011 their best effort) and coach Andrew McFadden recently told NRL.com of his desire to translate that junior success into senior success. No doubt McFadden will leave no stone unturned in that quest but it seems a case of easier said than done. Watch this space.