New Zealand Warriors
Current ladder position: 9th
Points differential: 22 points+58 point differential
Run Home: v Raiders (A), Sharks (H), Knights (A), Roosters (H), Titans (H), Panthers (A).
The Warriors have a kind run towards the play offs, coming up against each of the four bottom placed sides, giving the team from across the Tasman a likely road to finals football.
The main danger for the New Zealand side is themselves. They often lack composure when it is most needed, as shown by their tumultuous final round against the Dragons last year when they could have stolen a finals spot. Coach Andrew McFadden seems to have added a more steely resolve to the side, and this mental edge will be tested over the coming weeks.
Once again, it was their slow start to the season that has put them under pressure at the business end of the year. Had they started positively, they may have been out of the log jam, and in to the top four.
Having said that the Warriors are a side that could beat any other team on their day. The attractive brand of attacking football they play makes them a pleasure to watch and a nightmare to defend against.
Shaun Johnson contributes a lot to this style, and his smooth return from injury as soon as possible is a must for his side. He has been ruled out of the battle with the lowly Raiders in Canberra on Sunday. While the Warriors would love him back as soon as possible, rushing his return may be detrimental to the New Zealand side’s chances.
The loss to Manly last week showed they miss spark when Johnson is not around, and their kicking game is far less effective. Johnson currently leads the way in NRL for forcing line drop outs from kicks.
The Warriors have lost their last two games, however this losing streak should end in Canberra this Sunday, kick starting the New Zealand side’s run home to finals football.