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Forward planner: Brown piecing together new-look Warriors pack

New Warriors coach Nathan Brown has a radically different forward pack to work with than what was available to Todd Payten last year with effectively six new faces plus the development of some younger players.

While Adam Blair retired and Lachlan Burr, Isaiah Papali'i and Agnatius Paasi moved on, Leeson Ah Mau and Bunty Afoa return from long-term injuries to join recruits Addin Fonua-Blake, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Kane Evans and Bayley Sironen.

Brown revealed Tongan wrecking ball Murdoch-Masila had been training almost exclusively on an edge – his preferred position over his past five years at Salford and Warrington.

The 29-year-old's recent pec strain was so minor he barely missed a session and was back in full training, the coach added.

Afoa is in full training after missing all of 2020 with an ACL injury while Ah Mau is also unrestricted having not played since round two last season due to a ruptured pec.

"We've had a lot of players come into the club, whether that's external recruiting or whether it's been younger players coming up that have been in the Warriors program the last few years so we've had a big turnover of people and some new staff so we're building combinations and looking at the way we want to do things on the field," Brown said.

Brown undecided on Warriors forwards make-up

"We've had a fairly significant turnover. Young Siro's come into the equation as well. Some blokes last year, Eli Katoa developed, Jamayne Taunoa-Brown was developing.

"Obviously a couple of other forwards, Jack Murchie played a reasonable amount of footy last year, Josh Curran played a couple of games.

"There's also blokes developing within that have just started their journey so who plays where and gets what spot, we won't know how some blokes are going until probably round six or seven.

"Only having one trial which is the case for every club, there's a lot of blokes we won't get to see a lot of until we actually start playing.

"The young guys from last year, like all clubs there's a lot of younger kids who only played a couple of games of footy last year.

"It's probably going to take a little bit of time but we have some positions nailed in and more importantly our key positions we know who's going to start there which is good for combinations."

Fonua-Blake is the highest-profile recruit for the Warriors this season and Brown was hopeful that the Tonga international was coming into the best part of his career.

"He's a good experienced player, coming into a good age, he's 25 now so he's probably coming into what should be his best years," Brown said.

"He's a father now with four children so when they get that maturity off the field that helps on the field so we're hopeful of Addin having a really good impact for not only on the field but off the field.

"He's been good for some of our younger players in particular which is great."

Analysing the Warriors' 2021 draw

Brown said managing the COVID bubble requirements would be a lot smoother this year after many lessons learned last year and with families able to join the players, but still lamented a slightly interrupted preparation.

"The experience the club got out of it can help this year be a little bit more positive," he said.

"The initial period last year there was a lot of uncertainty and no families whereas this year there's more certainty and the families are able to come and join their loved ones. Last year's experience can certainly help make this year's transition a little easier."

That includes the certainty of knowing the club's first four rounds will be based in Australia before a likely return to hosting home games in New Zealand, though having part of the pre-season split into two groups – one on either side of the Tasman – was a setback to building combinations.

"Knowing where we are for the first sort of four to six weeks has certainly taken a lot of uncertainty away but the biggest challenge has been we've got a lot of new players come into the club," he added.

"From a combinations point of view [having split groups] wasn't ideal but you get a choice, all organisations in business or sport have different types of challenges.

"Sure the combinations might not be quite where they would be if we'd trained before Christmas. We got to put a lot of time into some other areas and I suppose with having the staff we had and smaller groups that allowed players to probably get a little bit more individual time into them."

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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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