Warriors 2015 season review
Déjà vu tends to be an evil phrase when you are a Warriors fan.
Another 26 rounds, another mid-season burst which planted the seed of a possible premiership dream, but ultimately just another slow and painful fall from finals qualification.
The year had its highs - back-to-back last-gasp victories over Cronulla (20-16) and Parramatta (17-13) in Rounds 9 and 10 - and some deep lows in the way of consecutive 50-16 losses to the Cowboys and Tigers in Rounds 24 and 25.
The emergence of home-grown talents such as Solomone Kata, Albert Vete and Sam Lisone were other bright spots, while young utility Tuimoala Lolohea showed he can be a force at first-grade level in any of the backline positions.
Sitting fourth heading into the final eight rounds, the Kiwi side failed to win a single game from that point on, slipping to a final resting place of 13th on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder.
Almost half of their squad who started this season won't remain in Auckland next year, with big names Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Sam Tomkins and Chad Townsend among the departures.
In his second year as head coach Andrew McFadden is starting to assemble the team he wants, and mid-year the club secured two of their biggest-ever signings in current Kiwi internationals Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke.
Season 2016 holds plenty of promise for this club, but optimism doesn't win NRL titles.
A look at some of the names in the 2015 causality ward - Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson and Ben Henry to name a few - offers up the chance to make plenty of excuses for the Warriors' late-season collapse.
But the fact that they finished the year in the NRL's bottom three for completed sets, errors and points conceded says it all; ultimately the Warriors shot themselves in the foot time and time again this season.
Where They Excelled: Bringing through young talent. The Warriors had six players make their Telstra Premiership debut in season 2015, with several standing out among the club's best. Centre Kata scored more tries than any other in the side (12), while prop Vete played 21 of 24 games and stood up when they were without senior front-rowers Jacob Lillyman, Ben Matulino and Sam Rapira.
Where They Struggled: Doing the basics required to win games in this competition didn't come easy for the Warriors. Having the third-highest error rate in the NRL, averaging 11 per game, meant the Kiwi outfit finished the year averaging a 73 per cent completion rate, the third worst among all teams. When completing at over 75 percent the Warriors were a dangerous side, the problem was they rarely managed to do it. Gifting their opposition all that ball also had a detrimental effect on their defensive line, averaging 25 missed tackles and 24.5 points conceded per game.
Missing In Action: A heavy injury toll throughout the year meant the Warriors had to use a total of 32 players, one of the highest turnovers in the competition.
It wasn't just the sheer number of casualties, but the positions they lost men in were often already thin at the club. Utility Ben Henry was out for the season from Round 4, while fellow centre option Ngani Laumape didn't manage an NRL game at all, meaning the Warriors were forced to try several different options in the position and rely on rookie Solomone Kata playing every game.
The loss of Thomas Leuluai in Round 10 was a big blow made worse when Johnson went down, forcing McFadden to thrust youngsters Tuimoala Lolohea and Mason Lino into the halves for the club's most important games at the back end of the year. While not season-ending, injuries to veterans Sam Tomkins, Manu Vatuvei and Ryan Hoffman through the year were also crucial blows to the Kiwi side.
Turning Point: Twenty four minutes into the Round 20 clash with the Sea Eagles. That was the moment Shaun Johnson suffered his season-ending ankle injury while scoring a try. From then on the Warriors didn't win a game and slipped from the middle of the top eight to their eventual finishing spot of 13th. You certainly can't blame all of that on losing their star halfback, but there's no doubting it was the turning point in their season.
Hold Your Head High: Captain Simon Mannering was an immense presence in the middle of the park, playing every game and finishing the year behind only Andrew McCullough in terms of the most tackles in the competition. In a year where he made 1,092 tackles Mannering missed just 27, while also averaging 105 run metres. While many of his teammates struggled to put together consistent showings Mannering was tough, selfless and persistent in his efforts every game.
2016 Crystal Ball: The light at the end of the tunnel was always the impending arrival of Tuivasa-Sheck and Luke. Combine them with halves Johnson and Leuluai and the Warriors' side will feature a spine full of Kiwi internationals. Young players like Lolohea, Vete, Kata and Lisone should be better for their experiences gained this year, and overall the Warriors look a more-balanced side for next season. Expectations will be high and anything less than a finals berth will be considered a failure.
Conclusion: Any team who loses their first-choice No.7 in the NRL is going to be affected, particularly when he is as influential as Johnson. But that's no excuse for a final seven games which saw the Warriors concede an average of 33.7 points, while averaging only 12.8 scored over the same period. They had a terrible run with injuries, which told near the back end of the year as fatigue set in and a lack of experience was exposed by opposing teams. But after powering their way up to fourth position going into Round 19 the Warriors should still have been able to do enough to make the finals, and ultimately this team underachieved in 2015.
Home Record: 5-7
Away Record: 4-8
Longest Winning Streak: 3 games (Rounds 9-12, Rounds 15-18)
Longest Losing Streak: 8 games (Rounds 19-26)
Players Used: 32
Tries Scored: 80
Tries Conceded: 104