Warriors 2017 season review
The record remains on repeat at Mount Smart Stadium, and the tune isn't getting any easier to tolerate.
For the sixth straight year the Warriors missed the NRL Telstra Premiership play-offs, for the fifth time in six years they lost four or more of their final six games, and at the end of it all 2017 will go down as one of the club's worst seasons in their history.
Under a new coach in Stephen Kearney, and with Kieran Foran joining Kiwi international teammates Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Johnson and Issac Luke, expectations were high in Auckland. Ultimately their forward pack's inability to consistently win the battle in the middle of the park meant the stellar spine had scant opportunity to fire.
Arguably their best performance of the year came against an Origin-depleted Brisbane Broncos in Round 12, and the fact that the Warriors' longest winning streak was just two games will show that this side never really got going this year.
Where they excelled: Implementing a strategy of completion-based football. Contrary to the lingering stereotypes, this Warriors team had no hint of free flowing or ad-lib football about them. They completed sets better than any other side in the NRL this season, at an average rate of 79.7 per cent, and made the second-fewest errors with an average of 9.4 per game. Under Kearney they also showed improved mental strength in games where they were being well beaten. In the past the Warriors would have been blown off the park, but that wasn't the case in 2017 with their biggest losing margin being 20.
Where they struggled: Scoring points and stopping them being scored against them. It sounds simple enough, yet the Warriors fell badly short in that area. The Kiwi side had the competition's third-worst attack, mustering a measly 18.5 points per game on average, and had 10 games where they scored 14 or less. On the other side they leaked 24 per game on average to sit ahead of only the Newcastle Knights and Gold Coast Titans in terms of the competition's worst defensive outfits.
Missing in action: A ruptured PCL for Johnson was the team's major injury with the star No.7 missing six of the final seven games of the season, with his team losing all of them and failing to score more than three tries in a single game which he didn't play. Foran also spent seven games on the sideline. Outside of the halves the big losses came in the forwards. Both James Gavet and Albert Vete suffered broken arms which meant neither of them played beyond Round 20. Experienced back-rower Bodene Thompson also had his season ended by a torn pec in Round 21.
Turning point: The 62nd minute of their Round 19 clash against the Penrith Panthers. That's the moment Johnson went down injured and all realistic hope was lost for the Kiwi side. While things hadn't exactly gone to plan up until that point – with the Warriors having won only seven of 17 at the time – the loss of their best attacking player was always going to be too hard to overcome.
Hold your head high: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Coming off a torn ACL which meant he played hardly any football last season, and given the extra responsibility of the captaincy, 'RTS' stood up big time. While he was still a long way off the best form of his career, with 10 tries, 16 line breaks and an average of 181 metres per game he was arguably the Warriors' best this year. Veteran lock Simon Mannering was fantastic as usual, finishing second in the NRL for most tackles made.
2018 crystal ball: Much of it will depend on who they can add to their roster between now and Round 1 in 2018. The Warriors are in dire need of quality props and an impact back-rower, and if they don't get that then there is little reason to think next year will be any better. Some of the younger players in the squad should improve, and another pre-season under Kearney will be helpful, but whether that equates to a better finish is anyone's guess.
Conclusion: Some of the expectations placed on this team at the start of the season were totally unrealistic, but whatever way you look at it they badly underachieved in 2017. Once again they lacked the consistency required to be competitive across 26 rounds and their late-season collapse reeked of a soft mentality. The fans won't like hearing it, but the club looks set to go through a re-building stage which may mean success sits on the backburner for a little while longer.
Home Record: 6-6
Away Record: 1-10
Longest Winning Streak: 2 (Round 5-6, 14, 16)
Longest Losing Streak: 9 (Round 17, 19-26)
Players Used: 30
Tries Scored: 78
Tries Conceded: 98