As the National Rugby League season draws closer, we look at how the Warriors will go in 2021.
After spending the entire 2020 season on Australian soil; the Warriors look set to do it all over again aiming for a top eight finish for the first time since 2018.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOWEmbed from Getty Images
Bunty Afoa, Leeson Ah Mau, Euan Aitken, Tom Ale, Rocco Berry, Josh Curran, Wayde Egan, Kane Evans, Addin Fonua-Blake, Jackson Frei, David Fusitu’a, Tohu Harris, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Peta Hiku, Eliesa Katoa, Karl Lawton, Ken Maumalo, Marcelo Montoya, Jack Murchie, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Kodi Nikorima, Bayley Sironen, Sean O’Sullivan, Hayze Perham, Adam Pompey, Iliesa Ratuva, Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, Jazz Tevaga, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Paul Turner.
Euan Aitken (St George Illawarra Dragons), Kane Evans (Parramatta Eels), Addin Fonua-Blake (Manly Sea Eagles), Marcelo Montoya (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Ben Murdoch-Masila (Warrington Wolves), Sean O’Sullivan (Brisbane Broncos), Bayley Sironen (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
Gerard Beale (Retired), Adam Blair (Retired), Lachlan Burr (North Queensland Cowboys), Blake Green (Newcastle Knights), Patrick Herbert (Gold Coast Titans), Adam Keighran (Sydney Roosters), Taane Milne (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Agnatius Paasi (St Helens RLFC), Isaiah Papali’i (Parramatta Eels), Nathaniel Roache (Parramatta Eels)
Gold Coast Titans (H), Canberra Raiders (H), Sydney Roosters (A), Manly Sea Eagles (H), St George-Illawarra Dragons (A)
WHAT TO EXPECT
The New Zealand Warriors had a tough start to 2020 finding themselves camped in Australia for all of 2020; they started the season poorly with many questioning if not seeing their families was derailing their campaign. Their horrid start led to Stephen Kearney’s firing mid-way through the season; however, as the season progressed, the side developed grit. From round 11 they started to show that they could compete with the elite teams in the competition, narrowingly missing the top eight. The New Zealand side has hopes that they can bring their home games back to Mount Smart from Round five, but the current climate may make that impossible. They may remain the Central Coast Warriors for the entire season, regardless of where they end up calling home the New Zealand side will need to start 2021 with the same spirit that they ended 2020 with. With a new coach in Nathan Brown, several new signings and extra time to prepare for the possibility of living in Australia, there are no excuses for the New Zealand side, and the fanbase expects a playoff spot.Embed from Getty Images
With the recent unfortunate news of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck signing with New Zealand Rugby from 2022, this season is the final chance for the 2020 Captain of the Year to get the Warriors the elusive premiership they have been chasing for 26 years. Tuivasa-Sheck always gives his 100% for the Warriors, and you can expect to see him take his performance to another level. With welcome additions in the forward pack, Tuivasa-Sheck should be free to play his natural game, causing havoc with his nimble footwork and pace.Embed from Getty Images
The Warriors increased their recruiting drive for 2021, and this resulted in seven new signings, primarily adding serious size to their pack. Marque signing Addin Fonua-Blake has had his fair share of controversies on and off the field, but he brings the New Zealand side a much-needed no-nonsense front-rower that will get the Warriors rolling forward allowing their dangerous backline to strike.Embed from Getty Images
Although his signing has gone under the radar, Euan Aitken is possibly the solution to one of the Warriors biggest issues. The Warriors leak points on their edges and Aitken showed his defensive excellence in 2020, ending the season with 91.3% tackle efficiency. If he can continue this level for the Warriors, he may well end up their signing of the year.
The Warriors have a favourable draw in 2021 with only three five day turnarounds. Thye also only face one of the 2020’s top four sides twice (Melbourne Storm).
The New Zealand side start the season with back to back home games against the Titans and Knights, they finish the first month with tough clashes against the Raiders and Roosters.Embed from Getty Images
Round five is when the Warriors club and fans alike hope that the Warriors can return to Mount Smart Stadium when they face the Sea Eagles. This would be the first NRL match on New Zealand soil since August 2019 and will certainly be a sell-out full of league starved locals. Rounds six to twelve are all winnable matches, playing only two of 2020’s top eight sides (Storm and the Eels), with the toughest task coming in Round seven when they play the Storm in their annual Anzac day game.
Round 13 sees the Warriors have a bye before facing the Storm again in Round 14. After matches against the Knights and Dragons, the New Zealand side have their toughest stretch from Round 17 to 19 when they face the Sharks (A), Panthers (H) and the Rabbitohs (A). After that, the Warriors run home from Rounds 20 to 23 looks promising with games against the Tigers, Bulldogs and Broncos with Round 21 being a challenging rematch against the Sharks. The regular season’s final round sees the Warriors back to where it all began with a rematch of the Round one match against the Titans.
FEARLESS PREDICTIONSEmbed from Getty Images
Top Tryscorer – Ken MaumaloEmbed from Getty Images
Top Pointscorer – Chanel Harris-TavitaEmbed from Getty Images
Club Player of the Year – Tohu Harris
WHERE WILL THE WARRIORS FINISH?
The pressure will be on the Warriors right from the start If the New Zealand side can bring the same intensity that they brought in the second half of 2020 and stay injury-free the Warriors will aim to return to the playoffs to send their skipper out on a high note.