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The New Zealand Warriors.

The Warriors qualified for the finals for the first time since 2012 and a number of players created history for the club in a season that can only be described as successful for the New Zealand-based team.

Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck became the first Warrior to win the Dally M Medal as NRL player of the year, while winger David Fusitu'a was the first player from the club to be the Telstra Premiership's leading try scorer.

However, it was arguably the Warriors' defence which coach Stephen Kearney would have been most satisfied with after his team conceded 100 points fewer than the previous season to boast the fifth-best defensive record in the NRL.

The Warriors finished in eight position after being in the top four until round 15 and were never outside the top eight.

New Zealand Warriors: 2018 by the numbers

Home and away record

7-5 at home, 8-4 away

The Warriors' dramatically improved record on the road was the key to their success in 2018, with the Auckland-based team winning just one of their 12 matches away from Mt Smart the previous season.

The turnaround was particularly significant given the distances the Warriors had to travel, including games at Perth, Townsville, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Wollongong and Gold Coast, as well as Sydney.

Their home record also improved from last year, when they won six matches but the aim for the club in 2019 is to turn Mt Smart Stadium into a fortress and they are offering membership deals to increased support in Auckland next season.

Leading try scorers

Winger David Fusitu'a created history by becoming the first Warriors player to top the NRL's try scoring list after crossing for 22 tries in the regular season. With a try in the Warriors finals loss to Penrith, Fusitu'a scored 23 times in 23 matches for the Warriors in 2018.

His average of one try per game was also the best strike rate in the NRL, with Cronulla's Valentine Holmes finished second on the try scoring list with 22 tries in 26 games, including 21 in the regular season. Warriors centre Solomone Kata scored 12 tries in 23 matches.

Post-contact metres

While Fusitu'a grabbed the headlines for his try scoring feats, left winger Ken Maumalo also played a key role for the Warriors in 2018 with his ability to help get the team out of the defensive end of the field.

Maumalo averaged 56.6 post contact metres, which put him sixth in the category behind the likes of Jason Taumalolo, David Klemmer and Blake Ferguson. Warriors prop Bunty Afoa averaged 4.26 post-contact metres from his 176 carries with the ball, placing him fifth overall.

With Maumalo and Afoa leading the way, the Warriors (508) averaged more post-contact metres than any team except the Roosters (530) and Bulldogs (527).

Try scoring – attacking channels

With Fusitu'a averaging a try per match, it would be expected that most of the Warriors tries would be scored from the right channel, which yielded 27% of their 80 tries in 2018 compared to 21% from the left channel.

In addition, the Warriors scored another 21% of tries from the centre right channel. However, the centre left channel was responsible for 23% of tries for the Warriors.

Tries conceded – defending channels

While the Warriors were potent in attack on their right edge, it is also where they conceded most of their tries, with Fusitua Fusitu'a and centre Peta Hiku each responsible for 17 try causes.

In total, opposition sides scored 45% of the 73 tries conceded by the Warriors through the New Zealand team's right and centre right channels.

Tries conceded from penalties

The opposition's most frequent source of try-scoring possession against the Warriors came from a penalty (24), with 13 tries conceded from a scum and 10 from kick returns. However, the Warriors' record after conceding a penalty was fourth best, behind only the Dragons, Storm (both 21) and Roosters (23).

Hooker Issac Luke was the most penalised Warrior in 2018, earning the wrath of referees on 23 occasions in 22 matches. Luke was in the top 10 of most penalised players in the NRL but his discipline was still a lot better than the worst offenders - Andrew Fifita (33) and Jake Trbojevic (32).

Metres gained from offloads

The Warriors were arguably the most effective team at offloading in 2018, with 94% of their 324 attempted offloads finding a support player. As a result, the Warriors gained an average of 77.8 metres per game from offloads – second only to the Bulldogs (79.8).

Tevaga was the most effective Warrior in this area, with all 30 of his offloads being effective and resulting in a team-high gain of 225.7 metres. Fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and prop Adam Blair each attempted 32 offloads, while Hiku (29) and Luke (26) were also frequent offloaders.

Goal-kicking accuracy

With a lot of their tries scored out wide, the Warriors were only able to turn four points into six on 55 of 80 occasions – an average of 68.6%. This is below the NRL average of 73.6 per and the 71.5% success rate of the top four teams.

Goal kickers Shaun Johnson and Mason Lino converted 60% of tries scored on the right channel and 41% on the left channel. The pair managed 100% accuracy with their combined 19 penalty goal attempts.

Back three in their defensive 40m

The impact of Tuivasa-Sheck at fullback and Fusitu'a and Maumalo on the wings had a lot to do with the Warriors' success in 2018.

Only the Roosters' back three were better at getting out of their own end and Tuivasa-Sheck averaged an NRL high of 12.1 metres for runs from within the defensive 40-metre zone. Maumalo averaged 100.8m per game from inside his own 40 metres, while Fusitu'a averaged 65.4 metres per game.

"The back three in particular got our sets off to positive starts and they all had what I thought were really positive seasons," Warriors coach Stephen Kearney said.  

"Our game model was obviously planned a little bit around that and the way we played certainly bought them into the game out of the back field."

Tries conceded near own line

Opposition teams played the ball within 20 metres of the Warriors' tryline on 699 occasions during the regular season but the New Zealand-based team only conceded 50 tries from plays started in that area.

On average, NRL teams conceded tries from 8.6% of play-the-balls inside their 20-metre zone but the Warriors' average was 7.2%, which was among the top four sides.

Kearney said the addition of experienced recruits Tohu Harris, Blake Green, Adam Blair and Peta Hiku had made a difference to the team's defensive resolve.

"We worked pretty hard on that during the pre-season and we had the inclusion of some personnel which really helped us in that area," Kearney said. Tohu is a really smart footy player as is Greeny and Peta. Having those guys and also Blairy really helped the co-ordination of our try-line defence."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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