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For & Against: Warriors can make finals despite Harris-Tavita injury

News that Warriors five-eighth Chanel Harris-Tavita will miss up to 12 matches with a foot injury makes the tough task of reaching the finals even tougher.

He was a key part of coach Nathan Brown's plans for this year, but now Brown has to find a solution in the halves and get his side to keep on winning.

In this week's For & Against, journalists Paul Zalunardo and Martin Lenehan discuss the chances of the Warriors playing finals football.

For & Against – Injury won't end Warriors' finals hopes

For – Paul Zalunardo ( senior journalist)

The loss of Chanel Harris-Tavita for as many as 12 weeks is a body blow, but it doesn't mean it's all over for the Warriors.

They are thin on the ground when it comes to replacements, but they still have enough good players in their squad to reach the finals.

Episode 4 - Christian Welch

Two people are crucial to this happening – Kodi Nikorima and coach Nathan Brown.

Let's start with Nikorima. If his performances can match his talent on a more consistent basis the dream will remain alive. The Warriors' monster forward pack can help him by winning the battle in the middle more often than not.

That would allow Nikorima to get the likes of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu'a opportunities to put points on the board.

Then we have coach Brown. He's a man facing an early test. Does he simply slot someone like Sean O'Sullivan into Harris-Tavita's spot, or does he rework the way the team plays?

The Warriors were impressive in round one before appearing to take a step backward in a loss to the Knights. 

Backline execution has the Warriors in the lead

If the replacement for Harris-Tavita can defend his spot in the line and provide crisp service and an adroit kicking game the rest of the team can continue to build into the season.

The Warriors' draw over the next six weeks is a real rocks-and-diamonds affair.

They face the Raiders and Roosters in the next two rounds but then have dates booked with the Sea Eagles, Dragons and Cowboys (along with another tough test in the shape of Melbourne) coming after that.

Three wins from the next six weeks will keep them firmly in the top-eight race and start to instill a genuine sense of belief that a return to the finals for the first time since 2018 is within reach.

Against – Martin Lenehan ( senior journalist)

The dream of making the finals for just the second time in the past decade is quickly turning into a nightmare for the Warriors.

A season that started so positively with a win over the Titans has hit significant speed humps with a loss to Newcastle and long-term injuries to Euan Aitken and Chanel Harris-Tavita and a three-game ban for Jamayne Taunoa-Brown for a crusher tackle.

Every try from round 2

Losing to the Knights was hardly the end of the world but the fractured foot suffered by classy youngster Harris-Tavita on top of Aitken's ankle injury is a massive concern for coach Nathan Brown.

If the Warriors were to make some noise in 2021 they needed to get off to a flyer early and keep their best 17 on the field for an extended period.

Sitting 1-1 after two games they face a testing road trip to Canberra this weekend with a vastly different side to the one which took down the Titans in round one.  

Brown's backline looks far less potent without Aitken and CHT, and his forward pack has lost one of its enforcers with Taunoa-Brown gone.

How good is Magic Round

Life is tough enough for the Warriors already thanks to their relocation to the Central Coast and that is only compounded by injury and suspension to key men.

On the back of the Raiders in round three the Warriors then face a red hot Roosters outfit at the SCG in round four – another daunting prospect even with a full-strength squad but made all that much tougher in light of Harris-Tavita's injury.

At 21 years of age and 28 games into his career, Harris-Tavita is ready to blossom into an elite playmaker but he'll know have to cool his jets on the sideline for three months and hope his teammates can keep themselves in the play-off hunt until his return.

It's hard to see them conjuring enough points to trouble two of the heavyweights and with the stuffing knocked out of them at 1-3 it will be an awfully long way back for Brown's men.

Can the Warriors make the finals without Chanel Harris-Tavita?

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The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

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