Warriors out to temper Sharks pack
The Warriors are hoping a tough encounter against the North Queensland Cowboys last week will serve as the ideal preparation for dealing with the formidable Cronulla Sharks forwards on Friday night.
Spearheaded by a group of current and former representative players, Cronulla's big men have helped their team to achieve the third highest total run metres in the competition after 18 games, averaging 1644 per match in 2017.
But Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck believes there had been a marked change in the mind set of his own side's pack in the last fortnight, with increased intensity at training giving him confidence that they can rise to the occasion.
"I think from last week's game we saw a change there, especially with the middle pack just standing up and playing the physical game," Tuivasa-Sheck said ahead of kick-off at Mount Smart Stadium.
"You have to give it up to Jacob Lillyman and Ben Matulino, they really led the team well.
"[The Sharks are] another similar team to the Cowboys, big forward pack… if our middle pack can front up again and control their middle, it's up to our players in Mason [Lino], 'Foz' [Kieran Foran], myself and 'Bully' [Issac Luke] to control the team and execute our plays.
"It's all on the line for us, so it's just getting everyone connected and all in."
In the absence of the injured Albert Vete and James Gavet, with the latter being one of their best forwards this season, averaging 112 metres and 21 tackles per game, Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has handed the likes of Ligi Sao a bigger role off the bench, while also calling rookie Tevita Satae into the 17.
Bench utility Ata Hingano said there was plenty of belief that their new-look forwards could match it with the likes of Andrew Fifita, Wade Graham and Paul Gallen, who between them powered through 519 metres last week.
"In our side we still have Ben [Matulino] and Lillyman, and the forwards who have come in are capable of giving us the momentum we need. They are all able to do the job for us," Hingano told NRL.com.
"It was good for Chris [Satae] to debut last week too… none of us expected him to do anything different to what he did in reserve grade, he ran hard and made his tackles like he does.
"The way the Sharks play is they play off momentum and a fast game, so we have to get in their face and slow them down."
Currently sitting six points outside of the eight with six games remaining, the Warriors are approaching must-win territory if they are to keep their 2017 finals hopes alive.