Confident Warriors eye another grand final
Warriors NYC coach Kelvin Wright says his side is building momentum at the right time of the season ahead of a Holden Cup Preliminary Final showdown with the Panthers in Brisbane on Friday night.
The three-time and defending champions are one win away from a fourth under-20s grand final appearance after easily accounting for the Broncos 44-10 in Townsville on Saturday night.
In his first year as head coach Wright conceded that he had felt the pressure of expectation for the team to make a seventh consecutive finals series but now that they were at full strength and in a Preliminary Final that confidence would only grow.
"I think the expectation is external, from the public. Everyone talks up the fact that we're the only team to never miss the finals so straight away the pressure is on," Wright told NRL.com of the expectation of success in the young Warriors.
"They've had three higher profile coaches in Tony Iro, John Ackland and Stacey Jones who have a lot of history and are great coaches and I've been lucky enough that I've been under all three at some level.
"The pressure was on to certainly make the finals. I was glad to get that box ticked that's for sure and the next step is to get to that grand final.
"You get to the grand final by playing your best footy and once you get there I think it's who's got the most gas left in the tank and can do it on that day.
"We're unbeaten now in a month and that's obviously a good sign at this time of the season."
Like many of the junior Warriors this season, five-eighth Ata Hingano has spent much of the year playing in the seniors in NSW Cup and his return on Saturday was a major boost.
The number of players blooded in the senior ranks has made it difficult for Wright to develop combinations over the course of the season but clearly by the 45-10 scoreline against the young Broncos their fluidity in attack is on the improve.
"Clearly tonight the signs were there. Our defence was good and having Ata Hingano back was a big bonus for us and we managed to put plenty of points on the board," Wright said of his side's win on Saturday.
"With our personnel we've been chopping and changing a lot and gone through a lot of new players.
"When we've actually had all our players on the field we've had some consistency and we're getting that back again now having everyone available.
"In the first and second half there were just a few moments where we pushed things that didn't need to be pushed so just looking for some composure from a few players.
"And hopefully not let 10 points in."
The Warriors and Panthers met just once during the regular season with Penrith recording a 36-28 win at home.
Penrith finished 26 rounds with a 246-point better for-and-against than the Warriors and after their 44-24 win over Manly in Week One of the finals Wright knows the minor premiers are the benchmark team.
"They're a dangerous side," said Wright, who has been an assistant coach with the Warriors 20s for the past two years.
"I watched them last week and they put plenty of points on the board and they've got great line speed and good structures so we'll certainly have to be at our best.
"But if we are, we'll give ourselves a good chance of winning.
"Overall we were the third-best defensive side so it's no surprise that the other three teams that are left, the Cowboys and Panthers were first and second [defensively].
"The last month we're letting in on average between 12 and 16 points and that's a big bonus at this level."