Warriors Mid-Season Review
The form shown by the Warriors so far in 2015 will come as little surprise to most of their fan base, but the fact they sit inside the top eight at the NRL Telstra Premiership's halfway point probably will.
At their best this year the Kiwi outfit have still looked like a team who are jammed in third gear, while at their worst they have been driving on a flat tyre. Errors have defined their season to date, but the Warriors have still managed to win enough games to sit in the top half of the competition.
Off-season signings Ryan Hoffman and Bodene Thompson have been among the best Warriors to take the field this year, while the emergence of youngsters Solomone Kata and Tuimoala Lolohea have added plenty to the squad.
The run home: Six of their next eight games are at home, presenting the Warriors with an ideal chance to firm their claim for a spot in the top eight. Of their remaining 12 games, only half of them are against sides currently in playoff contention, in what is a favourable run home for Andrew McFadden's men.
Game to remember: It was hardly an NRL coach's definition of a quality performance, but the Warriors' spectacular get-out-of-jail act in round 9 against the Sharks will be remembered by fans for a long time. Yet another late collapse looked confirmed for the Kiwi team after Andrew Fifita scored with just two minutes remaining, leaving a pile of would be defenders in his wake to take the lead for the Sharkies. But with a minute remaining Ryan Hoffman's charge down presented the Warriors with a final chance, where Shaun Johnson took full advantage, stepping through defenders all the way to the try line and securing an unlikely 20-16 away win.
The one that got away: Take your pick. Second-half collapses against the Knights (Round 1), Cowboys (Round 7) and Titans (Round 8) were all equally demoralising - but it's probably the one against the Cowboys on the road which cost them more than just two points. In one of their toughest away trips all season the Warriors led 24-16 with 15 minutes to go, only to leak two soft tries from dummy half and lose the match 28-24, significantly denting their self-belief in the process.
MVP: Captain Simon Mannering has been their rock for a number of years now, and 2015 has been no different. The Warriors' most reliable, consistent and busy player every week, Mannering averages 48.7 tackles per game and has just nine misses all year. In a team full of errors he's made just four all season, and his presence on the field is pivotal to the club's premiership dream.
Stats that matter: The most errors of any team in the competition with 152, and the second fewest completed sets with 327. Those two stats alone represent the utter disrespect for the ball which has been the leading reason for several of the Warriors' close losses. In 12 games to date they have managed to complete over 75% of their sets just five times.
Fantasy stud: The Kiwi side's best player on the field is also their best in the NRL Fantasy sphere. Simon Mannering is the second highest ranked scorer in terms of total points scored (732) and averages (61). Currently owned by 24 percent of all Fantasy players, Mannering also remains the cheapest of the top eight scorers at the midway point of the year at $472,000.
Injury report: Well before the season was halfway through the Warriors had already lost Ngani Laumape, Ben Henry and Thomas Leuluai to season-ending knee injuries. The likes of Glen Fisiiahi (shoulder and knee), Sam Rapira (hamstring and knee) and Sam Tomkins (knee) have also missed the majority of the year so far. It's not the worst causality list in the NRL, but has exposed the Warriors' lack of depth in the backline.
What they are saying: "We expected a little bit more by round 14, we wanted to be in the top four at this stage, but we know the season is how it is and all we can do is improve every week," cult hero Manu Vatuvei told NRL.com.
"Our consistency and minimising our errors are two things that are letting us down.
"If we perform well against the quality teams we have coming up then things could go really well for us, we are up for it."
Predicted finish: If they can reduce their horrid error rate over the next few weeks the Kiwi outfit are a real chance of playing post-season footy. The Warriors possess one of the things every successful side needs; a quality forward pack who don't change much week-to-week. Better ball control will almost certainly see less points conceded and more scored, and the Warriors should scrape into the finals, finishing 7th or 8th.