Brad Inger reviews the 2022 Season of the New Zealand Warriors, where they finished fifteenth on the ladder.
Most Tries: Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (9)
Most Points: Reece Walsh (104)
Club Player of the Year: Euan Aitken
Road Warriors have Season to forget
Before the season started, Warriors fans got the news they had been waiting for; their side would finally make their return to Mount Smart Stadium; however, they would have to wait until round 16. The optimism from the news was short lived after the Warriors suffered back-to-back losses to the Dragons and Titans in the first two rounds. This was followed by three wins against the Tigers, Broncos, and Cowboys, which would end up being their most successful period of the Season.
Being without their skipper Tohu Harris for the first nine rounds did not help, and injuries were a constant theme of their campaign, with only Bunty Afoa appearing in all 24 games. This saw the side fail to build cohesion, winning only one match in golden point against the Raiders between rounds 7 and 15. They also broke their worst defeat record going down 70-10 against the Storm on ANZAC Day.
Round 16 was a chance to reset the season for the New Zealand side when they returned to Mount Smart to face the Tigers; they looked refreshed and sent the rugby league-starved locals home happy with a 22-2 victory. After the bye in round 17, the Warriors fell into a pattern of performing poorly on Australian soil, including three matches where they conceded over 40 points (48-10 loss to Rabbitohs, 48-4 loss to Cowboys and 46-12 defeat to the Panthers), but showing heart at Mount Smart with a 24-12 loss to the Storm and a 42-18 victory over the Bulldogs. This heart disappeared in the final round, where the Titans overcame a 26-12 deficit with seven minutes remaining to force the final game in Auckland to golden point before ending the Warrior’s Season with a 27-26 defeat.
While everything appeared to be going wrong for the club on the field, they were not better off it with the sacking of coach Nathan Brown and the announced early exit of several players, including the murky Matt Lodge situation where he was allowed to leave the club early with a golden handshake.
2022 did not go the way the Warriors or their fans wanted, and it’s back to the drawing board for 2023. Returning to Mount Smart full-time, the signing of Andrew Webster as their new head coach and a handful of exciting signings, including Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Te Maire Martin, could be the start of something exciting. However, an injury-free season and much improved defensive effort (history making 700 points conceded) will be required if they wish to return to the finals since 2018.
NothingButLeague Warriors Player of 2022: Reece Walsh (14)Embed from Getty Images
Run Metres: 2,276
Line Breaks: 8
Tackle Busts: 76
Other Points: 8 Josh Curran; 7 Shaun Johnson; 6 Addin Fonua-Blake; 5 Wayde Egan; 4 Tohu Harris; 3 Chanel Harris-Tavita, Ed Kosi; 1 Daejarn Asi.