Last season placing: 9th
The New Zealand Warriors have the ability to be anything in 2015, however they must fix the inconsistencies that plague their game.
The last two seasons have been promising at times, only for the team to fall at the final hurdle. They have wonderful attacking ability, highlighted in 2014 by being the fourth best attacking side in the NRL, however they tend to switch off at key moments, costing them much needed results. Coach Andrew McFadden will be working hard to have the team mentally prepared for the close matches which could make all the difference.
They have been moving closer to the top eight over the past few seasons, a place they haven’t been since 2011, when they were runners up. They look due for finals football.
Key Players: Shaun Johnson will be the key player for the Warriors for many years to come. The New Zealand halfback has always had speed to burn and a wicked step, and now is learning to organise the team as well. In 2014, he consistently applied pressure to oppositions by earning repeat sets in the form of forcing line drop outs from his accurate kicking. Current holder of the Golden Boot award he will be the key man if the Warriors are going to play finals football in 2015.
Ryan Hoffman is another vital cog of the Warriors pack, the skilled second rower travelling across the ditch from Melbourne for 2015. The recruitment of Hoffman is a pivotal signing following the loss of Jayson Bukuya to Cronulla. The backrower is a tackling machine, and should help add needed strength to the sometimes brittle Warriors’ defence.
Sam Tomkins must also step up for the Warriors to push for a finals berth. Tomkins arrived last year for a record transfer fee, however failed to live up to the hype in his first season. He showed his abilities at times in a solid season, however without setting the world on fire. The fullback must be at his best and provide support for Johnson to help the New Zealand side become multidimensional in attack, and continue to work on his positioning at the back. His exploits in English Super league show what a force he could be. Tomkins could be the man to get the New Zealand side back in to the finals.
Drawbacks: The loss of Feleti Mateo could hamper the attacking capabilities of the Warriors, although his tendency to overplay his hand may stop the side from having unnecessary pressure placed on it.
They haven’t lost many key members of their squad with McFadden largely keeping the faith in his current crop of players.
Story of 2015: Long time servant of the game, Nathan Friend signed a one year contract extension for 2015 season, and looks set to bow out of the game at the end of the year. Friend signed on with the Warriors from the 2012 season and has been pivotal in defence, leading the tackle count for the side. His career will be well celebrated.
Ladder: Make the top eight
Top Tryscorer: Manu Vatuvei
Top Pointscorer: Shaun Johnson
Player of the Year: Shaun Johnson