2020 SEASON REVIEW | New Zealand Warriors

In what has been their most challenging season to date, The Warriors failed to reach the playoffs but earnt plenty of praise from the NRL community.

2020 Club Record

Wins: 8
Losses: 12
Competition Points:

2020 Player Achievements

Most Tries: Peta Hiku (8)
Most Points: Chanel Harris-Tavita (62)
Simon Mannering Medal: Tohu Harris

Season Summary

After a less than stellar 2019, the Warriors were out to regain some respect and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2018; they claimed they would do this with a revamped attacking style. However, it was more of the same with back to back poor performances in Round’s one and two, losing 20-0 to the Newcastle Knights and 20-6 to the Canberra Raiders. The Warriors were not helped by a massive injury count which saw key forwards Bunty Afoa, Leeson Ah Mau ruled out of the season before it even began.

Then COVID reared its head and the season was put on hold. The Warriors now found themselves in a key position in ensuring that the competition would return. They elected to keep the season alive by relocating themselves to the Central Coast for the entire season with many of the players and staff set to be away from their loved ones until the competition ended. The NRL allowed the Warriors to obtain loan players from rival clubs when injuries prevented the New Zealand side from being able to field a gameday 17 from the healthy players remaining on their roster; this saw a group of players that become Warriors for a limited time. The Warriors welcomed Rooster Poasa Faamausili, Panther Jack Hetherington and Eels duo Daniel Alvaro and George Jennings.

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Many predicted that this challenge would be too much to overcome for the New Zealand side that has long been labelled as mentally soft for the majority of their existence. However, they started the season relaunch with an 18-0 victory over the Dragons, breaking the NRL’s completion rate record with 46/48 sets completed (96%). This was followed by inconsistent efforts from Rounds four to six losing to the Panthers 26-0, defeating the Cowboys 37-26 and a massive 40-12 loss to the Rabbitohs. The Round 6 loss was the final straw for Warriors management as they fired coach Stephen Kearney and handed the reins over to assistant coach Todd Payten in what was a line in the sand moment for the organisation.

Paytens head coaching career started with a resounding 50-6 defeat against the Storm and the Warriors continued their inconsistent trend in Rounds eight to ten with a 26-16 win over the Broncos followed by back to back losses to the Titans (16-12) and the Sharks (46-10) in what was arguably their worst performance of the season. This saw the Warriors reach the midway point of the season with only 3 wins and 7 losses. The New Zealand side was in a sorry state, and being away from home seemed to be taking its toll on the players, and it looked like they were waiting to come home. But something happened within this side as they transformed their form, becoming a side that battled for 80 minutes and narrowly lost to some of the best sides in the competition as they made a late drive for a top-eight position. From Rounds 11 to 17, the Warriors earned victories over the Wests Tigers (26-20), Sea Eagles (26-22), Bulldogs (20-14) and the Knights (36-6). They also lost to the Roosters (18-10), Panthers (18-12) and the Eels (24-18). Round 18 became the Warriors most important match of the year as a victory over the Sharks would keep their slim playoff hopes alive, but it wasn’t to be as they went down 22-14.

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With the playoff dreams now over the Warriors had two matches left before they would be able to return home, Round 19 saw the Warriors lose to the Raiders 26-14 with the Warriors saving their best performance to last in Round 20 with a 40-28 victory over the Sea Eagles.

After returning to New Zealand and going through quarantine, the Warriors held their awards night with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck winning the Vodafone People’s Choice award as well as the Canterbury of NZ Clubman of the Year. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown was awarded the Vodafone NRL Rookie of the Year award and Tohu Harris walked away with the NRL Players’ Player of the year and the Simon Mannering Medal.

The second half of the season saw the Warriors earn plenty of praise and due to the sacrifices, they made they were awarded the Provan Summons Medal at the Dally M Awards night. Tuivasa-Sheck was also awarded the Dally M Captain of the Year award.

Despite the Warriors failing to reach the playoffs, they showed plenty of spirit and grit and have given their fans hope that a top-eight finish in 2021 is obtainable, especially with the signing of marque front-rower Addin Fonua-Blake which marked their forward pack a lot more formidable.

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NothingButLeague Player of the Season

Tohu Harris

The 2020 Simon Mannering Medalist was head and shoulders above the rest of the Warriors in 2020, rivalled perhaps only by his skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Harris has come out in the past and acknowledged that his body hadn’t been 100% for some time. After some extended time off in 2019, he came into 2020 without any niggles which resulted in Harris being able to play in all 20 of the Warriors matches in what has been his best year since joining the side. He was the leader of a forward pack full of inexperience, and he rolled up his sleeve and did more than his fair share of work, making a team-high 845 tackles, 287 more than that next best in his side. Not being content with being a defensive powerhouse, Harris was also second in the club for running metres totalling 3465 metres. 2020 was a fantastic year for the veteran forward and Warriors fans will be hoping that 2021 will be even better. It is the final year of his contract, and the Warriors will need to get an offer on the table for him ASAP as many clubs would like to get their hands on him.

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2021 GAINS AND LOSSES

Gains

Source: https://www.zerotackle.com/rugby-league/player-movements/

Euan Aitken (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2023), Kane Evans (Parramatta Eels, 2022), Addin Fonua-Blake (Manly Sea Eagles, 2023), Ben Murdoch-Masila (Warrington Wolves, 2023), Sean O’Sullivan (Brisbane Broncos, 2021), Marcelo Montoya (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs, 2022), Jayden Nikorima (On Trial Contract)

Losses

Source: https://www.zerotackle.com/rugby-league/player-movements/

Gerard Beale (Retired), Adam Blair (Retired), Lachlan Burr (North Queensland Cowboys), Blake Green (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Patrick Herbert (Gold Coast Titans), Taane Milne (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Isaiah Papali’i (Parramatta Eels), Nathaniel Roache (Parramatta Eels), Adam Keighran (Sydney Roosters), Leivaha Pulu (Released), King Vuniyayawa (Released), Selestino Ravutaumada (Released)

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