New Zealand Warriors Stats
2013 Record: 11 wins from 24 premiership games (eleventh placed)
5-year record: 54 wins from 120 premiership games (45% win record)
Arrivals: Sam Tomkins, Jason Bukuya, Chad Townsend.
Departures: Elijah Taylor, Steve Rapira, Russell Packer, Todd Lowrie, Pita Godinet.
Coach: Matt Elliott
Fixtures to start and end 2014
First five fixtures: Eels (A), Dragons (H – Eden Park), Cowboys (A), Tigers (H – Westpac), Sharks (A)
Final five fixtures: Sharks (H – Mt Smart), Knights (A), Roosters (H), Titans (H), Panthers (A)
New Zealand Warriors go into the 2014 National Rugby League season with plenty of optimism after English international Sam Tomkins joined the club during the off-season.
They will be hoping the world record transfer investment in Tomkins can turn around the club’s fortunes after a disappointing 2013 where the club missed out on the eight for the second consecutive season.
“The NRL is a top competition with some of the best players in the world. I wanted to come over here and test myself against some of these people,” Tomkins told nrl.com.
“I’m looking forward to playing with Shaun Johnson; I’ve still got a bone to pick with him about the semi-final of the World Cup but after that I’ll be his mate,” Tomkins said. “I’m looking forward to playing with him, he’s a real talent.”
Tomkins is favoured to play in the number one jumper. Don’t be surprised if sometime during the season he plays at five-eighth at the expense of Thomas Leuluai.
He comes to the NRL having scored 144 tries in 151 appearances for Wigan. The burning question is whether Tomkins can handle the week-in and week-out challenges of the NRL.
It will also be interesting to see where Kevin Locke fits into the Warriors side. With a below-par 2013 season now behind him, Locke will be looking to bounce back to the form which saw him burst onto the scene in 2009. You would expect Tomkins, Manu Vatuvei, Dane Nielsen and Konrad Hurrell to be certain starters in the backs, leaving Locke to potentially shift out to the wing.
Aside from Tomkins arrival the Warriors are light on arrivals with the handy Jason Bukuya and fringe player Chad Townsend moving to the Auckland based club.
The Warriors continue to have match-winners all across the park. Shaun Johnson at his best can carve any team up with his speed and skill. Hurrell and Vatuvei are strong, fast and cause plenty of headaches for their opposition. Then you have the intimidating pack led by ten-year club veteran Simon Mannering. While the Warriors will miss Penrith-bound and ever consistent Elijah Taylor, Cronulla’s Jason Bukuya joins Feleti Mateo, Jacob Lillyman and Ben Matulino giving the club plenty of firepower up front.
Can the Warriors bounce back into finals footy? The one thing the Warriors struggle with is consistency. On a roll, the Warriors will match any NRL side. In the worse of form, they can crash to heavy defeats. This was shown in their losses to Parramatta and Penrith last season. There will be question marks over Tomkins competing at NRL level, and whether Vatuvei and Mannering can manage their injuries for a full season. So much potential game-breakers in this team, you would expect the Warriors to be on the edge of making the finals. The Warriors face three of the 2013 finalists in the last five weeks which presents a huge challenge for the club. Wit the lack of recruitment during the off-season and well known inconsistency, the Warriors are likely to miss out on September footy again this year.