With the season opener just around the corner, we look at how the New Zealand Warriors will go in 2018. The team faced intense scrutiny at the end of the 2017 season as their loyal fans continue to be frustrated by the lack of on-field results.
There have been some widespread changes made in player personnel and training standard throughout the off-season. The Warriors will be aiming to reach the top 8 this season which would not only be respectable, but a realistic goal.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Signings: Gerard Beale (Cronulla Sharks, 2020), Adam Blair (Brisbane Broncos, 2020), Anthony Gelling (Wigan Warriors, 2018), Blake Green (Manly Sea Eagles, 2020), Tohu Harris (Melbourne Storm, 2021), Peta Hiku (Penrith Panthers, 2020), Matiu Love-Henry (Brisbane Broncos, 2018), Agnatius Paasi (Gold Coast Titans, 2019), Leivaha Pulu (Gold Coast Titans, 2020)
Departures: Matthew Allwood (released), Bureta Faraimo (Hull FC), Kieran Foran (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Charlie Gubb (Canberra Raiders), Ryan Hoffman (Melbourne Storm), Jacob Lillyman (Newcastle Knights), Ben Matulino (Wests Tigers), Ofahiki Ogden (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Toafofoa Sipley (Manly Sea Eagles), Bodene Thompson (Leigh Centurions)
First Five: Rabbitohs (A), Titans (H), Raiders (A), Roosters (A), Cowboys (H)
WHAT TO EXPECT
Warriors fans can expect a new and improved side this season – but that isn’t to say they should expect a top four finish. The 2018 squad may not be full of superstars but new signings in the form of Adam Blair, Blake Green, and Tohu Harris see the New Zealand side becoming a solid team, full of skill and hard workers that will definitely have potential to make it into the top 8.
Although the new signings are what fans are excited about, the best buy of the season might just be the new head trainer Alex Corvo. He has been involved in several premiership title wins with Melbourne Storm and in his 15 years as head trainer, his club has only missed playoffs once.
Last season the Warriors seemed incapable of playing for the full eighty and many of their players looked as though they were not match fit – especially compared to teams that made the finals. The clubs new training regime and attitude towards hard work might just be what they need to change their losing culture that has seen the club miss playoffs for six seasons in a row.
Despite the rumours and speculations of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck leaving the club once he comes off contract at the end of 2018, the Warriors will be relying heavily on the fullback to make a difference to the sides fortunes this season. Tuivasa-Sheck made his debut as captain last year for the Warriors and was named their Player of the Year. While the team was struggling, RTS was one of a few players who continued to show up every week with the hunger to win and put his heart into every game. The team will once again need Tuivasa-Sheck to step up with the same passion he showed last year if they want a chance to make it to the Finals.
The clubs most exciting signings this season are undoubtedly Blake Green and Tohu Harris. Blake Green has a significant amount of pressure to perform this season as the veteran playmaker is hoping to bring experience and leadership to the youthful Warriors backline, as well as taking some pressure off Shaun Johnson in hopes to help his fellow five-eight reach his full potential.
Tohu Harris will add a much-needed a spark to the Warriors play as he not only has the ability to muscle his way through the middle as one of the NRL’s best forwards, but his broad skill-set allows him to threaten on the wing and create opportunities for the little men. Harris credits his time at Melbourne Storm under head coach Craig Bellamy for working hard to find all the qualities that have made him one of the best forwards in the NRL. It’s those qualities and Harris’ work ethic that Warriors coach Stephen Kearney hopes will rub off on the clubs less experienced players and change the attitude within the club.
The Warriors 2018 draw is reasonably in their favour this season. It’s a shame for the die-hard fans their first game is away but their following games against challenging teams like the Titans, Cowboys and Broncos are at home which should give them the added confidence they will need to overcome these top-tier teams.
Top try scorer – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Top point scorer – Shaun Johnson
Club player of the year – Tohu Harris
WHERE WILL THE WARRIORS FINISH?
The Warriors have been working hard throughout the offseason to re-shape the attitudes among players in order to create a winning culture within the club for years to come. The season is looking brighter than it has been and fans are feeling hopeful for a successful campaign. I believe the Warriors will be a stronger squad this season due to new signings and an improved fitness level and will finish somewhere in the top 8. This season will be a building year so fans should not expect a premiership title but they should be excited about the possibilities to come from the changes that have been made this year.
Warriors to finish sixth.