New Zealand Warriors
Record (W-L-D): 12-12-0
Top point scorer: Shaun Johnson (163 points)
Top try scorer: Manu Vatuvei (17 tries)
Another rollercoaster season saw the New Zealand Warriors again miss out on the finals following a last round loss.
As is often the way with the Warriors, stellar performances were followed up with disappointing games the following week. The side could have easily found themselves higher on the ladder if they found themselves the consistency their fans crave.
On their day, the side from across the Tasman is unbeatable, however they lack composure in games that turn to arm wrestles. It is the mental side of the game that seems to be the weakness of the Warriors, seeing them miss big opportunities to climb to the top tier of the NRL ladder.
As frustrating as they can be to their fans, the New Zealand side are a pleasure to watch when it clicks. They have an ability to shift the ball quickly, and speed across the park. The footwork and passing skills of half Shaun Johnson are phenomenal, and if he hadn’t been injured late season when they were on a roll, the Warrior’s momentum may have taken them anywhere.
Warriors captain Simon Mannering had a wonderful season for his side, leading from the front. The captain was honoured for his efforts by receiving a record fourth Player of the Year award from the club at their end of year celebrations.
While their were plenty of highlights for the captain throughout 2014, the pinnacle had to be his efforts in his 200th NRL game. Mannering chalked up a try scoring double as his side toweled the Knights 38-18.
Another leading players for the New Zealand team throughout 2014 were the dynamic Shaun Johnson, who was brilliant at building pressure on opposition sides as he grew in ability to force repeat sets for his side.
Nathan Friend scored some rare tries throughout the season, but once again did what he does best, by ending 2014 with the highest tackle count across the NRL (1074 tackles).
Hustling hulk of a centre Konrad Hurrell had plenty of reasons to blow kisses to his Mother, scoring 12 tries, and always proving a handful, while Jocob Lillyman was recalled for Queensland on the back of some barnstorming performances at the front.
The Raiders may be a club who want to avoid watching the Warrior’s end of year highlights package, with the New Zealand side beating the Green Machine by a combined score of 108-30 in their two home and away fixtures.
There were plenty of other big results for the team as well, who also belted the Tigers, Knights, Eels and Titans, leaving them with a pretty points differential at the end of the season.
The fact the Warriors had themselves in a strong position to play finals football as the season drew towards an end, but fell short again, is the biggest disappointment for the side.
They had so much potential and with the run home the team had, they really should have found themselves alive in the Finals. While the fact that they were there and thereabouts again will give confidence for next season, but the fans must be wondering why they can’t nail that top eight spot down. It is the second year in a row they have fallen at the final hurdles.
The loss at the hand of the Sharks in round five ultimately cost the side greatly, and the low quality performance would have hurt the side, while a 46-12 thrashing by the Roosters in round 24 left the Warriors hopes in tatters.
Once again, the side showed it has a keen ability to get to the try line, but despite managing to hold two sides to nil (Eels and Titans), still struggled defensively at times.
Off the field, the team found themselves involved in a number of controversies, as well as replacing a coach mid season.
The major controversy of the season involved Konrad Hurrell, who found himself the star of an unsavoury leaked snap chat with a New Zealand actress. The Warrior’s star was fined for the affair, however showed great mental strength by returning a stronger player after the incident.
The side was also dragged into the ASADA controversy that engulfed NRL side Cronulla, with 2014 recruit Jayson Bukuya accepting a backdated suspension for alleged peptide use stemming from his time at the Sharks in 2011.
While Matthew Elliot, began the season at coach, he resigned mid season as pressure grew from above after a form slump, seeing coach Andrew McFadden take the helm.
The Future: 2015
While it has been disappointing to see the New Zealand Warriors side marginally miss the Finals cut the last couple of seasons, 2015 holds high hopes for the club.
The club will maintain the backbone of its squad, while adding some depth in the second row with the signing of Brad Fittler medal winner Ryan Hoffman from Melbourne Storm.
Fullback Sam Tomkins had a lot of weight on his shoulders this year, and should be better come next season with NRL experience under his belt.
The major positive for the Warriors looking forward is the obvious talent they know they have in the squad, which should give the side confidence. It will be a matter of working on that consistency during the off season, particularly in regards to when the side is under pressure.
With a full pre-season under coach Andrew McFadden, the side should be well drilled come the start of the 2015 season, and should find themselves well in the hunt during the business end of next season.