There's no two ways about it, it wasn't a great year for the New Zealand Warriors. Seven wins from 24 matches was the return for a series of mixed performances. Paul Zalunardo and Joel Gould take a look at where the Auckland-based team performed well (and poorly) in 2017, and how they can rectify their shortcomings next season.
The club is hoping a much-needed addition of experienced players will usher in improved results. Adam Blair, Blake Green and 2017 premiership-winner Tohu Harris are sure to provide some much-needed consistency.
“One of the key elements after talking to blokes like Adam, Greeny and Tohu is that they have a real desire and hunger to come here and help the club move forward,” Kearney said.
“It all started with Tohu before Christmas [of 2016] and it was about targeting guys I thought could bring quality to the playing group and who would kick us forward.
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney said the woes on the road were an issue the team had to address in order to climb up the ladder.
“The same issues we had away, we had at home. Manly beat us by two points in Perth and we had a number of games like that,'' he said.
''We kept ourselves in contests but weren’t good enough to go on with the job. We have to win more games away from home than we have and you just can’t hide from that fact.”
David Fusitu’a topped this list while their next-best finisher, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, dominated most offensive categories. He finished third in the NRL for total run metres.
Shaun Johnson was easily the best of the Warriors when it came to making ground from long kicks. The club was behind only the Storm in this area.
“Before Shaun got injured there was some really good developments in that kicking area and why we were in contests until the last quarter of games,'' Kearney said.
''He is a good kicker of the footy no doubt about that and we missed him in that back part of the year.”
The Warriors were in the bottom half of the NRL. A return to the off-the-cuff attacking game that served them well in the past would improve these figures.
“ I don’t think we troubled teams enough with the footy so we have made a couple of adjustments to help us do that,” Kearney said.
Hooker Nathaniel Roache played just nine matches but did enough to top the league in this category. His average was well clear of Wests Tigers rake Matt McIlwrick, who was next best.
According to NRL.com/stats, the Warriors were among the best-behaved teams and they did well to restrict tries on the following set of six – with only the Bulldogs faring better.
The Warriors made the second-fewest errors – a whopping 52 less than the Sydney Roosters, who topped the league in this category. Only two of their players averaged above one error a game.
“That is a big part of why we kept ourselves in the contest and didn’t let a team score more than 20 points more than us,'' Kearney said.
''It kept us in contact with teams but we were a bit short of capability in being able to finish a job off. If you turn the ball over all the time you are going to have a hard day at the office.”
The big men in the middle struggled to disrupt defensive lines by needing three or more defenders to bring them down. Simon Mannering led the way but he didn’t finish inside the top 30.
The results weren’t pretty for the Warriors, with none of their interchange players finishing the year with a positive differential. Unproductive bench play was common among teams at the bottom of the ladder.
Mason Lino played just six matches, but during that time he led this category in the NRL. Shaun Johnson had a decent return from the matches he played.