With the recent commencement of practice matches we can rejoice in the knowledge that our long wait for NRL Season 2018 is almost at an end. What better time to run our eye ove the 16 competing teams and pass judgement on their chances in the new season.
Come with us as we run the ruler over the New Zealand Warriors.
Why can they improve?
With the players at their disposal they really shouldn’t be setting up camp in the bottom four positions of the NRL Ladder. Impotent in attack and inept in defence , the Warriors 2017 Annus Horribillis ended with a nine game losing streak that consigned them to 7 & 17 finish.
Despite losing players of the calibre of Kieran Foran, it could be argued that the Warriors have strengthened their squad in the off-season. The additions of Adam Blair and Blake Green to compliment the likes of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Shaun Johnston will have coach Stephen Kearney rubbing his hands together in anticipation. They have to do better in 2018 don’t they?
Why could they stay where they are?
While the talent of the Warriors is unquestioned, unfortunately, their ability to stand up when the pressure on is less certain. Key signing Adam Blair is a player who fits this description too, as does the teams most important player Shaun Johnston. Too much falls on the shoulders of the 2014 Golden Boot winner, if he struggles to find consistency, it is hard to see the Warriors climbing the ladder in 2018.
Why will they go backwards?
At the risk of sounding like ‘Captain Obvious’ there is a volatility surrounds the Warriors. While their absolute best can match it with an team in the competition but they find it very difficult to consistently maintain this level of output. When this is combined with a very unhealthy ability to string large numbers of losses in a row after 23 years in the competition, it is still hard to be confident about predicting the Aucklanders whether its to win, lose or draw.
Player to watch – Shaun Johnston
In no way is the selection of Johnston an imaginative one but, as the man whose shoulders the Warriors hopes lie heavily upon, sometimes the first option is the best option. Warriors fans will be hoping that the consistent Blake Green will provide the perfect foil for the talismanic Johnson, allowing him the creative freedom to torment opposition defences.
Having won just 10 of his 41 games in charge of Parramatta, there wouldn’t have been many people left unsurprised by Stephen Kearney’s appointment as New Zealand Warriors Coach for the 2017 season. Not even his status as one of the NRL’s genuine nice guys, can save him from Code Red Status after his 7-17 opening year in charge of the Warriors. Anything short of dramatic improvement from the Warriors in 2018 will undoubtedly bring to an end Kearney’s second stint in the coaching hot seat.
How on earth do you make a confident prediction about where New Zealand will finish after 26 Rounds of the NRL Season? If Shaun Johnston can regularly find the magic touch we know he is capable of, and bring a few of his team mates like Isaac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck along with him, the sky is the absolute limit. Conversely, the spasmodic and inconsistent nature of the club and its stars mean the lower reaches of the ladder are equally accessible for the team from across the ditch.
Their year in a sentence
The Warriors Rollercoaster continues
Click the link below to listen to an in depth preview of the Warriors 2018 prospects, along with news and views on cricket, the World Club Challenge and a whole lot more.