2023 NRL: New Zealand Warriors Season Review

Matt Pritchard reviews the 2023 Season of the New Zealand Warriors where they made the prelim final only to be beaten by the Brisbane Broncos.

Club Stats

Wins: 16
Losses: 8
Most Tries: 20, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Most Points: 176, Shaun Johnson
Simon Mannering Medal Player of the Year: Shaun Johnson

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Outstanding Warriors Season With Andrew Webster at the Helm

The New Zealand Warriors produced an astonishing 2023 season under new coach Andrew Webster – they made the prelim final where they bowed out to the Brisbane Broncos.

Some experts were expecting the Warriors to finish with the wooden spoon, because there was a low expectation of rookie coach Webster being able to make an impact at the club, plus a lack of good signings.

The loss of Reece Walsh to the Broncos was seen as a negative given he was the most dangerous attacking player at the club in 2022. They didn’t lose anything with Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad’s return.

All was proven wrong with an incredible back end to the season which saw the Warriors record 10 wins in their last 12 games to storm home into fourth spot.

The pre-season started off well with a thrashing of the Tigers in their first trial. It wasn’t long into the season when the Warriors broke a 13-game losing streak in Australia when they beat 2022 prelim finalists North Queensland in Townsville.

In April, arguably the greatest comeback in the club’s history saw the Warriors come from 20 points down to beat the Sharks 32-20.

By Magic Round any thought of the Warriors finishing bottom of the ladder was gone despite a loss to the Panthers (18-6), where they matched it with the defending champs. It was also one of the more controversial moments of the Warriors’ season when CEO Jason Paris went to social media to describe the match as cheating of the highest order.

The 26-22 loss to Brisbane in Napier during Origin period was a pivotal moment where the Warriors went up another level.

Sitting in sixth spot with eight wins and six losses, the Warriors only fell to the Rabbitohs and Dolphins in the second half of the season. They narrowly missed out on recording their equal longest winning streak, winning seven on the trot.

This winning streak brought out the best in veteran halfback Shaun Johnson, who most thought would take out the Dally M Medal, only to miss out to Kalyn Ponga.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak produced a superb season in obliterating his season try scoring record by crossing 20 times during the regular season (he ended up with 24).

With Johnson missing Week 1 of the finals, they were thrashed by Penrith before they put a score on the Knights in the first home final in 15 years. In the prelim final they were simply outplayed by the Broncos, ending their outstanding season.

Despite missing the Dally M gong, Johnson was crowned halfback of the year, with Watene-Zelezniak and Addin Fonua-Blake part of the NRL team of the year. Webster won the Coach of the Year award.

With the announcement in April that Roger Tuivasa-Sheck would return to the club on a three-year deal, the momentum of what the Warriors did in 2023 surely will continue into 2024. They will continue to build on their fanbase with the Up the Wahs nickname.

Key Player Stats

Most Try Assists: 29, Shaun Johnson (NRL Leader)
Most Line-breaks: 25, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Most Run Metres: 4,453, Addin Fonua-Blake
Most Post Contact Metres: 1,670, Addin Fonua-Blake (NRL Leader)
Most Tackles: 910, Tohu Harris
Most Errors: 31, Adam Pompey

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