Warriors centre Blake Ayshford.

Ayshford backs interchange strategy

Last weekend Blake Ayshford became the latest victim of Andrew McFadden's controversial interchange strategy, but the veteran centre said he sees plenty of merit in the tactic.

For 80 minutes against Penrith the 28-year-old sat on the bench twiddling his thumbs, and even after the Warriors went through two periods of golden point the tap on the shoulder to go and warm up never arrived.

The first time he set foot on the field was to join the rapturous celebrations following Shaun Johnson's 89th-minute try, which sealed the 20-16 victory at Mt Smart Stadium.

"We are behind 'Cappy' (McFadden) 100 per cent, we saw it when he used Tui [Lolohea] off the bench, and the other week against Canberra Tui came on and almost single-handedly won us the game with his impact," Ayshford told NRL.com ahead of the Women in League Round clash against the Titans.

"I suppose it depends how everyone is tracking really, if all the backs are 100 per cent then yeah you could use a forward on the bench, but the way our forwards have been playing and how fit our forwards are at the moment you don't need to take them off.

"I'm sort of disappointed I didn't get on the field, but I'm ecstatic that we finally got a golden point win.

"I think a few years ago this would have hurt me a lot more, but the environment I am in at the moment, from family, support networks and the way the club have been to me, it's a lot easier.

"Cappy didn't really have a timeline for me on the weekend, you saw in the last few weeks with Tui that he was waiting before putting him on to see if anyone went down injured.

"There were times there in the game where it looked like I was going to go on for someone, but then the player ended up being OK so I didn't go on.

"It would have been hard to change – and a bit unfair on me as well actually – to put me on in golden point, dropping someone out and taking them out of that win."

 

 
In four of the Warriors' five games prior to Round 21, McFadden had raised eyebrows and been criticised for giving Lolohea reduced minutes off the bench, including a paltry two-minute showing against Manly in Round 19.

Ahead of the Penrith game last Saturday, McFadden defended the way he had structured and used his interchange, where he has opted for three forwards and a back in recent times.

"We don't need the forwards on the bench, we have got enough guys there to cover the minutes on the field," McFadden said.

"We want our best players on the field for longer, but we do need the versatility around if you get injuries, head knocks are a big part of the game now [as well], so making sure we have got easy cover to slot people straight into those positions is important, and a lot of teams are doing that."

In 2016 the Warriors' starting back row of Bodene Thompson (78.8 average minutes per game), Ryan Hoffman (81.2 average minutes per game) and Simon Mannering (76.7 average minutes per game), have all shown they are capable of playing full matches.