General Warriors - season preview



Warriors - 2012 Preview
Written by: Ali Nolan
Feb 24, 2012 2:02pm

Who would have predicted in 2011 that the Vodafone Warriors Club would have all their three teams featuring in every Grand Final? A huge boost for the Club setting up the New Zealand based franchise well for season 2012.

With the departure of Ivan Cleary, the Warriors most successful 1st Grade coach, all eyes with be on the experienced New Zealander Brian (Bluey) McClennan to take the side one step further than has been achieved before in the NRL since their inclusion into the competition in 1995.

The only major signing for 2012 being Nathan Friend, covering for the departed Lance Hohaia and Aaron Heremaia, shows the confidence the Club has in the players staying from the 2011 season, and the younger players coming through from back to back Premierships in the NYC competition.

Resigning of players such as Simon Mannering, Shaun Johnson, Kevin Locke, Sam Rapira, Jacob Lillyman and so forth, can only instill stability at the Warriors. Lillyman's bicep injury in the 1st trial match against the Titans will see him sidelined for 3 months.

Sam Raipira's shoulder injury in the 2nd trial match against the Rabbitohs, will have him on the sidelines for 6 weeks. In the same match, brother Steve limped off with an ankle injury. However we see the likes of Ukuma Ta'ai and Sione Lousi vying for the vacant position, both with NRL game time, and both more than capable of stepping up to cover for Lillyman and the Rapira brothers. The same for Michael Luck who will also be sidelined for 3 months now, longer than originally anticipated.

Good news for the Club with Jerome Ropati playing through their third trial match ok. Ropati playing his first game in nearly a year, ran freely. The dynamic form of rookie Konrad Hurrell in all 3 trials may just see him get the nod for the first game at centre ahead of Ropati.

James Maloney has already stated he is moving back to Australia to live in 2013. The Warriors were pretty quick to counter that with Kiwi player and Wigan halfback, Thomas Leuluai, set to head back to New Zealand in 2013.

The Warriors head into their first round match against the Sea Eagles with three major injuries: Michael Luck (Shoulder/Hand), Sam Rapira (Shoulder), and Jacob Lillyman (Bicep), but you do get the feeling that this will not penalize them in the slightest as they try to turn the result around in the rematch of last year's Grand Final.

Why They Can Win It
The depth of talent in every position on offer this year for the coaching staff must have them rubbing their hands together. If a run of injuries does occur, the next player in line will be more than capable. Also the confidence, and the harmony in Warriors Club in 2012 will see them well paced at the end of the season.

Why They May Struggle
Consistency could be an issue this year. Coach Bluey McClennan has firmly stated players will be picked on form and attitude, not on reputation. This could have an effect on combinations on the field. Hopefully the opposite will happen.

Player to Watch
Shaun Johnson - without a doubt, a lot of interest will be focused on the dynamic Warriors Number 7 Shaun Johnson. A glimpse of what is on offer was shown in 2011, and with a bit more NRL game time and confidence under his belt, Johnson is bound to improve.

Rookies to Watch
Ben Henry and Konrad Hurrell - both these players have been standouts for the victorious Warriors Toyota Cup sides.
Henry, captaining the side for the last 2 seasons, is a workhorse not afraid to lead from the front, both on attack and defence. With Michael Luck's shoulder injury worse than first anticipated, he may get more game time than expected early on in the season.
Hurrell was a stand out player for the winning 2011 Toyota Cup side after being lured over from playing rugby union. A very strong centre, he gives it all out on the field, and will step up to the pace of the NRL easily, causing havoc for the opposition on the way.

2012 Roster Changes
Comings: Nathan Friend (Titans)
Goings: Lance Hohaia (St Helens), Brett Seymour (Hull FC), Jeremy Latimore (Dragons), Aaron Heremaia (Hull FC), Joel Moon (Salford), Adam Henry (Roosters), Shaun Berrigan (Raiders), Isaac John (Wakefield), James Gavet (Bulldogs), Anthony Gelling (Wigan), Sosaia Feki (Sharks)

Best Line Up
1 – Kevin Locke, 2 – Glen Fisiiahi, 3 – Krisnan Inu, 4 – Jerome Ropati/ Konrad Hurrell, 5 – Manu Vatuvei, 6 – James Maloney, 7 – Shaun Johnson, 8 – Sam Rapira, 9 – Nathan Friend, 10 – Russell Packer, 11 – Simon Mannering (c), 12 - Feleti Mateo, 13 – Michael Luck
Interchange: 14 – Lewis Brown, 15 – Ben Matulino, 16 – Steve Rapira, 17 – Elijah Taylor

thought it might be a good idea to stick all Season preivews relating to the Warriors into one thread instead of having multiply which may occur

¿N. ig-mah¿_old

Interesting spin that not too many have hit on. Perhaps if Hurrell is being considered in the Round 1 team it won't be Inu that sits one out. Maybe Bluey qould rest Jerome for week one. That would be my preference if Hurrell needed to be in the team.

Also unusual to see an article rating Fish as a preferred wing option. Many of us have theorised the same idea, but I couldn't put him in my best line up, until he has proven himself in the position

And, I wouldn't put Steve Rapira as a preferred first choice option over Lillyman. Steve hasn't even played an NRL game for us at prop yet.


One thing to keep in mind is that this preview isn't neutral - it's written by a Warriors fan so may be biased slightly and unintentionally in our favour.


They should have got opposition fans to put out a write up, like those tossers at Zero Tackle last year.


Having lit the 2011 finals series alight, all eyes will be on the Warriors once more this season to see if they can repeat the dazzling form that took them all the way to their second NRL grand final. Certainly this once-enigmatic side is no longer considered merely one of great potential and they head into the coming season among a handful of genuine premiership candidates.

That said, there remain a few unknown quantities – none more pressing than the arrival of coach Brian McClennan following predecessor Ivan Cleary’s departure for Penrith in the off-season. Every coach puts their own stamp on a club and a change at the top immediately after such a ground-breaking year is far from ideal when pursuing stability.

Nevertheless, McClennan comes with a good pedigree – having coached both the New Zealand national side and Super League club Leeds Rhinos to silverware in the past – and he is no stranger to the Warriors, having assisted former head coach Daniel Anderson during the club’s last great era from 2001-’03.

He also inherits a side on the rise, with young guns Shaun Johnson and Kevin Locke among the most exciting talents in the Telstra Premiership. Their presence alone is worth the price of admission.

It’s difficult to find too many weaknesses in this Warriors squad. Johnson’s combination with James Maloney in the halves looks to have finally put to bed any lingering hangover from the retirement of club legend Stacey Jones; they have speed to burn out wide as well as the fearsome presence of giant winger Manu Vatuvei; and their forward pack provides a solid blend of no-nonsense go-forward and tremendous skill – particularly with back-rower Feleti Mateo creating so much second-phase play for his little men.

The primary goal of McClennan this season must be to finally find the year-long consistency that has typically been the Warriors’ Achilles heel. Notoriously slow starters, they haven’t finished the regular season in the top four since 2007 and it took two thrilling wins over Wests Tigers and Melbourne to reach last year’s decider.

There is no doubt that this is a seriously talented squad and they’ll be aiming for the upper rungs of the top eight – missing out on semi-finals football in 2012 would be considered a huge disappointment.

How They’ll Play It: The Warriors’ success last season was largely based around relentless second-phase play and speed around the rucks. Needless to say, it’s hard to imagine McClennan moving too far away from this formula in 2012. The Warriors are the most effective, if not prolific, offloading team in the NRL. Last season they produced a total of 328 offloads during the regular season (second only to Penrith) and were the most dangerous side in the competition when it came to taking advantage – scoring 11 tries and producing 21 line-break assists as a result of offloads. Not surprisingly, the Warriors boasted three of the NRL’s top 20 offloaders in 2011 including top-ranked Feleti Mateo who produced a whopping 85 (Manu Vatuvei produced 34 and Simon Mannering 33). Once they have their opposition on the back foot, the Warriors play a direct game with the likes of Johnson, Locke and Maloney constantly scheming through the middle. Watch for this trend to continue in 2012. Notably, the Warriors shifted the ball quickly to the edges less than any other side – just 45 times to the left and 29 to the right (a total of 74 times). This compares to a total of 254 strong shifts from the side they narrowly beat in Week Two of the finals, the Wests Tigers.

Expect HUGE Things From: Nathan Friend. This crafty hooker arrives from the Gold Coast looking to put a horror 2011 behind him in which injury restricted him to just four appearances. The Warriors enjoyed plenty of success with their multiple dummy-half runners last season; however it’s been some time since they have enjoyed the services of a long-term specialist No.9. Friend’s speed off the mark will suit the Warriors’ up-tempo style while his crisp passing can only be an asset.

And remember the name Konrad Hurrell: the 20-year-old centre is touted by many good judges as the next big thing at the Warriors. He’s big (100kg), strong and breaks tackles with ease.

Bonus Points: The Warriors are long-range specialists, having scored 34 tries from beyond the 20-metre line including 17 from halfway (only Canterbury scored more from distance). They also heavily favour their left-edge attack where Manu Vatuvei lurks. The Warriors scored 44 tries on their left side in 2011 compared to just 25 on the right.

However, they are vulnerable in defence against the bomb. Last season they defused just 52 per cent of cross-field bombs, 64 per cent of mid-field bombs and 71 per cent of standard bombs. They’ll have to improve on those numbers or pressure will build during close games.

They’re Going To Really Miss: Lance Hohaia. A veteran of 10 seasons with the Warriors, Hohaia provided wonderful utility value with his ability to play anywhere from hooker and half to fullback and even centre. His speed off the mark and tremendous support play featured heavily during the Warriors’ run to the grand final in 2011 and he was the only player to appear in both of the club’s grand final appearances (having played in the 2002 loss to the Roosters).

It’s Time To Deliver: Krisnan Inu. Immensely talented, Inu remains somewhat of an enigma with his ability to produce both the magical and the woeful. Typically, it was a piece of Inu inspiration that saw the Warriors stun Wests Tigers during the finals, yet his grand final performance was less than memorable with a series of costly errors. The return from injury of Jerome Ropati and the expected ascension of wonder-kid Konrad Hurrell leaves them with good depth out wide; consequently Inu must find much greater consistency if he is to retain his spot in the NRL side.

How’s Their Depth: Very good – particularly considering that their run to the grand final last season came with Ropati out injured and brilliant youngster Glen Fisiiahi unable to fight his way back into the top 17. They also boast tremendous depth in the forwards as more local products continue to fight their way into contention. Among those battling it out for a spot in the pack this year alongside veterans Micheal Luck and Simon Mannering are Ukuma Ta’ai, Elijah Taylor, Jacob Lillyman, Steve Rapira while Kiwi forwards Sam Rapira, Ben Matulino and Russell Packer continue to lay a solid foundation.

Under-20s: Consecutive Toyota Cup premierships is quite an achievement for the Warriors, who continue to develop pathways for the increasing number of emerging young Kiwis to progress to the NRL, and there is no reason to suggest they won’t be in the mix again in 2012.

Despite losing a number of players to the NRL squad – including Konrad Hurrell, Ben Henry, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Carlos Tuimavave and Sio Taukeiaho – the Warriors still boast nine members of last year’s grand final-winning squad with coach John Ackland confident they can continue their good run.

“I think we should have a good team,” he said. “I’m sure other clubs are well placed but I’m confident in the guys we’ve got. We’ve got more guys still here from last year than we did the year before so there is still some experience.

“I think we’ll be okay. I’d say that the junior base at this club is extremely healthy.”

The club has farewelled impressive youngsters Sosaia Feki and Adam Henry this season – the pair joining Cronulla and Sydney Roosters respectively.

The Coach: Brian McClennan was a popular pick as the man to replace Ivan Cleary in 2012 although he has his work cut out for him matching Cleary’s spectacular exit from the club. McClennan has plenty of talent as his disposal so expectations will be high, but his position is in no danger and if he is able to build on what Cleary started he could enjoy a long stint with the Warriors.

Predicted Finish: A young, talented side with plenty of good years ahead, the Warriors’ run to the grand final proved to all across the Tasman that they have what it takes to be serious premiership contenders. We’ll slot them in at 5th place after the 26 weeks of the regular season – after which anything is possible.

Toyota NRL Dream Team view from's Lone Scout
The value pick: Former Titans tackle machine Nathan Friend is underpriced after an injury-hit 2011 and is a great option at hooker.
The dark horse: Toyota Cup star Konrad Hurrell could become a must-have rookie if the explosive centre can break into the first grade side.


worth noting that their is a video clip also were they talk to jerome ropati and other stuff


Why the Warriors will be a force in 2012

1. They’re still hurting

The Warriors were the sensations of 2011, reaching just their second NRL Grand Final and showing fighting spirit to frighten the Sea Eagles with a stirring comeback in the second half of the decider. Their mission now is to not fall away, like past runners-up Parramatta and Sydney Roosters did in their follow-up seasons, but rather become an entrenched top-four club like the Storm, Broncos and Dragons. Certainly they have the troops. And their squad will still be aching at how close they went to carrying off their premiership dream. Hurt can be a great motivator if used wisely. Throw in the vital ingredient of self-belief and it would be a brave fan who wagered money against the Warriors at least playing semi-finals football in 2012.

2. A Friend in need

The Warriors’ investment in former Titan Nathan Friend could well prove the NRL buy of the decade. Aaron Heremaia and Lance Hohaia provided them with some flair and creativity over the past few seasons but the Warriors have sorely missed a true general around the ruck – and Friend is one with five stars. Few players are as involved; he missed most of last season with a troublesome shoulder injury but in 2010 his 2789 receives were the most by any player – and a whopping 330 touches more than next best, Matt Ballin from the Sea Eagles. The benchmark in the NRL last year was Wests Tiger Robbie Farah with 2558. With Friend seizing control, expect the Warriors’ pack to make a statement with relentless rolls through the centre and on the edges of the ruck. They’ll retain their shape and continuity all game too – whereas Heremaia and Hohaia shared the role and averaged a little more than 50 minutes on the field each, Friend clocks on for the full 80. And he was the Titans’ top defender, averaging more than 40 tackles a game. Yep, he’s their new best Friend.

3. Brian McClennan

They say a change is as good as a holiday. While the Warriors were never fatigued or stale under Ivan Cleary, and everyone exited 2011 with a bunch of happy snaps, the Kiwis will certainly benefit from the changeover to a new mentor. Countryman Brian McClennan will not be short of passion in his efforts to make the Warriors a consistent NRL powerhouse and he has the credentials to back it up: his coaching apprenticeship included guiding Leeds to two Grand Final victories in the English Super League, not to mention the Kiwis’ watershed Tri Nations title in 2005 – at the time New Zealand’s first series win over Australia in 27 years. A fierce competitor, the 49-year-old also guided the ‘Exiles’ – a composite Kiwi/Australian side comprising players in the ESL – to a victory over England in the inaugural Origin-like clash last June.

4. Competition from within

The Warriors had a settled player unit in 2011 and boasted several outstanding stars in Kevin Locke, Shaun Johnson, Feleti Mateo and James Maloney – but new coach Brian McClennan has indicated nothing is carved in stone for 2012. He may be half-foxing, given that quartet’s huge contributions, but McClennan also knows a new breed is ready to bust out of their Toyota Cup eggshells and greet the limelight of the NRL. The young Warriors went back-to-back in the NYC last year and six players – Ben Henry, Samiuela Lousi, Konrad Hurrell, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Carlos Tuimavave – have been included in their top squad of 25 this time around. Then there’s speedster Glenn Fisiiahi, who was earmarked for the No.1 jersey before injury handed Locke his chance last year. The trio of Locke, Vatuvei and Fisiiahi would give the Warriors one of the speediest and most powerful back threes in the league. Throw in Johnson’s blistering pace and they are dangerous from anywhere on the park.
Why the Warriors will be a force in 2012

5. Their cavalier style

Statistics can be misleading. On face value they don’t reveal the Warriors to be too much of a threat. In fact last year the Warriors managed no better than seventh best in nearly all the key attacking categories, such as points scored, tries scored, line-breaks, tackle-breaks and metres gained. All except one: offloads – where they tied with the Panthers at the top of the list. And that’s how they’ve built their reputation as the entertainers of the NRL. Feleti Mateo proved a perfect fit for their brand last year, topping the competition with 85 offloads – 17 clear of next best Corey Parker from the Broncos. With their new coach confirming second-phase play will remain the cornerstone of their attack in 2012 they just need Mateo to stay injury-free to light up the competition again.



One thing on the second article..."thrilling" is misleading, it infers we had catch them out at the end....while it was a tight game, we pretty much dominated Melbourne imo.

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