2017 NRL Preview of the Warriors



  • Year 23. Another new chapter. Another minor clean out of the playing roster. Another new coach (although to change it up we’re also keeping the old coach). Another year of pundits predicting another rollercoaster season ending in yet more disappointment, and they’ll most likely be right. The most important thing for this team, this club, is to start the season with wins. That will be nigh-on impossible as the Warriors never win in the early rounds but nevertheless - just win baby.
    That winning begins next Sunday when the Warriors face the broke Newcastle Knights, who are probably travelling to NZ in a large container aboard a flag-of-convenience ship just to save money.

    Kia ora: Kieran Foran (Eels)
    Ka kite ano: Thomas Leuluai (Wigan), Raymond Faitala-Mariner (Bulldogs), Shaun Lane (Manly), Jonathan Wright (Manly), Jeff Robson (Eels), Ali Lauititi (retired), Ben Henry (retired)

    Fullback
    Incumbent: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
    Challengers: David Fusitua, Tui Lolohea

    Despite a knee injury keeping Roger Tuivasa-Sheck out for most of the 2016 season, Roger the Dodger will return not only as the starter but as captain too. The new role means he gets to argue with the refs and do all the media/promotional work while vice-captain Simon Mannering leads the team.
    David Fusitua will be the back-up fullback after his break-out season last year in the absence of RTS. Tui Lolohea had moments of brilliance at fullback last season as well, but also moments of awfulness. Will need to work on his courage under the high-ball and when facing pressure from rushing defenders.

    Wing
    Incumbents: Tui Lolohea, Manu Vatuvei
    Challengers: David Fusitua, Ken Maumalo

    Both wing positions are up for grabs in 2017. Manu Vatuvei has been a club favourite for more than a decade now, but last year was a struggle and Stephen Kearney wasn’t afraid to tell regulars in the Kiwis squad that they were out of the loop. Tui Lolohea is a utility by name but appears to be best suited on the wing, especially when paired with Blake Ayshford. A place in this side will be needed for David Fusitua and wing is his next best position if he can’t play fullback. Ken Maumalo is the only other serious option for Kearney but it is well known that Big Ken wants guaranteed playing time. I predict a mid-season move for him if there are zero injuries.

    Centre
    Incumbents: Solomone Kata, Blake Ayshford
    Challengers: Tui Lolohea, David Fusitua, Ken Maumalo, Matt Allwood, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad

    Solomone Kata went from a much-maligned player in 2015 to a superstar in 2016. Kata worked hard on his defensive game and was explosive on attack, so expect his progression to continue. Blake Ayshford may not be the flashiest name on this list but he provides a veteran presence and, more importantly, had excellent chemistry with Tui Lolohea who is expected to be on the wing again. David Fusitua is projected by most NRL pundits to be starting at centre for round one - but only if there isn’t a wing spot available. Ken Maumalo, depsite having serious defensive flaws, will contend for the centre position too while Matt Allwood will spend most of his season in the NSW Cup. Utility Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad did make the 2016 NSW Cup Team of the Year as a centre and could be in with a chance if others struggle.

    Stand-off
    Incumbent: vacant
    Challengers: Kieran Foran, Ata Hingano, Tui Lolohea

    It was the risky move of the off-season but could be a steal of a deal for the Warriors. With Thomas Leuluai returning to SuperLeague to conclude his career, the Warriors signed the at-the-time-unregistered Kieran Foran. Foran had a worse 2016 than the United States of America with a bombed relationship, gambling issues, dodgy friendships and mental illness that resulted in an attempted suicide. Even if Foran struggles on the field - he is allowed to return to the NRL in round three - this one-year contract will still be a success if the Warriors can get Foran’s off-the-field issues sorted out. That will be a struggle early on, as it seems the Sydney media have been given orders to gun for Foran. Highly touted prospect Ata Hingano will start the first two games of the season, if the pre-season is anything to go by, while Tui Lolohea’s dream of starting in the halves appears to have ended.

    Halfback
    Incumbent: Shaun Johnson
    Challengers: Kieran Foran, Nathaniel Roache, Ata Hingano, Tui Lolohea, Mason Lino

    Can Shaun Johnson progress as a halfback or is this it? Is this as good as he can be? If that is the case it might be time to try SJ in the second-receiver role and move Kieran Foran into halfback though I doubt we’ll see that happen. Nathaniel Roache, Ata Hingano, Tui Lolohea and Mason Lino all provide depth.

    Lock
    Incumbent: Simon Mannering
    Challengers: Bodene Thompson, Albert Vete, Toafofoa Sipley, Charlie Gubb, Ligi Sao, Jazz Tevaga

    Simon Mannering was superb at lock last season, finishing second in tackles with 1042 (Jake Friend was first with 1279). But Stephen Kearney has traditionally played Mannering in the secondrow for the Kiwis, where he can shut down either the left or right edge, while opting for a wrecking ball at the back of the pack. Albert Vete, Toafofoa Sipley, Charlie Gubb or Ligi Sao fit that description and it should be expected that Kearney will try this at some point in the season. If Mannering plays in the secondrow, Bodene Thompson could move to the 13 jersey allowing him to work more closely with SJ since the two make a productive attacking tandem. Jazz Tevaga is an old school hooker/lock player who will provide cover for the lock position off the bench.

    Secondrow
    Incumbents: Ryan Hoffman, Bodene Thompson
    Challengers: Simon Mannering, Ligi Sao, Bunty Afoa, Toafofoa Sipley, Jazz Tevaga

    Ryan Hoffman has been stripped of the captaincy and, with Tohu Harris coming to Mt Smart in 2018, is playing for his career. If healthy, expect the Hoff to be one of the Warriors’ best players this season. In his two years at the club, Bodene Thompson has followed the same trend - strong start to the season both offensively and defensively, only to fade once July rolls around. If Bodene wants to make the Kiwis World Cup squad, he’ll need to maintain his performance for the whole season. Simon Mannering will be wearing a jersey with either 11, 12 or 13 on the back while Ligi Sao will be hoping to get any number on his back. Bunty Afoa is the only other genuine secondrower on the roster and should see a couple of games this season while Toafofoa Sipley, who had a promising debut against St George last year, is yet another prop who could see time in the backrow due to the long queue in the frontrow. Hooker Jazz Tevaga started his young career in the secondrow and could earn some gametime there as well.

    Frontrow
    Incumbents: Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman
    Challengers: Charlie Gubb, Sam Lisone, Albert Vete, James Gavet, Toafofoa Sipley, Isaiah Papalii

    When it comes to the frontrow the Warriors have the quantity but do they actually have the quality? Over recent seasons there has been serious questions about the defensive attitude of the whole team with the edge defence taking a lot of flack. The edge defence improved last year, largely to the improvements of players like Solomone Kata and David Fusitua, but the problem still existed in the middle. The Warriors big men struggled to make simple tackles and could not get any go-forward with the ball. Rugby league is a simple sport where dominating the middle of the field will give your team huge momentum over the 80 minutes - YUUUGGGEE. Despite having elite props in Ben Matulino and Jacob Lillyman, the rest of the bunch have been mediocre at best. Charlie Gubb offers energy but lacks talent, Sam Lisone offers aggression but lacks smarts, Albert Vete offers smarts but lacks aggression, James Gavet is still - at the age of 27 - a diamond in the rough, while Toafofoa Sipley and Isaiah Papalii are both greener than Kermit the Frog. If Kearney gets the best out of the big boppers, and figures out a good rotation, the Warriors will be in the playoffs. If not, the Warriors will miss the big dance yet again.

    Hooker
    Incumbent: Isaac Luke
    Challengers: Nathaniel Roache, Jazz Tevaga, Erin Clark

    Speaking of the struggles up front, Isaac Luke didn’t help the cause by being a little fat Maori last year. He appears to be in shape this preseason and an energetic Luke is vital to the Warriors controlling momentum in a game. Nathaniel Roache grew more confident with every game last season (he played seven) but Jazz Tevaga will be Luke’s backup due to his tenacious defending and strong dummyhalf running (although Jazz’s passing skills need to be upgraded quickly). Erin Clark will star for the NSW Cup team in 2017.

    Sneakdefreak’s best 17:

    1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck © 2. Tui Lolohea 3. Blake Ayshford 4. Solomone Kata 5. David Fusitua 6. Kieran Foran 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Jacob Lillyman 9. Issac Luke 10. Ben Matulino 11. Simon Mannering 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Bodene Thompson
    Bench: 14. Jazz Tevaga 15. Sam Lisone 16. Albert Vete 17. Toafofoa Sipley 18th man: James Gavet



  • Looking at the "Ka Kite Ano" list, we didn't lose much over the off-season. Leuleuai has been surprisingly good the last couple, but is definitely in the twilight of his career. Jonathon Wright was probably our worst signing since Tony Martin back in the early 2000s, I'm legitimately surprised he managed to find another NRL club. Robson never really offered a lot either.

    I'm cautiously hopeful for this year. I don't overly rate Kearney as a coach, but feel that with the roster he has he should be able to at least get them to the playoffs. Our back line when healthy is gonna be good, and there are a bunch of hard working but not flashy forwards up front.



  • If that Kiwi spine can stay injury free and play to their usual quality then we should be there or there abouts
    Generally when the wheels fall off it's straight after major injury problems, see 2015 with Johnson.



  • Thanks Sneak. Have been waiting for the 2017 preview.



  • Nice work Sneak.

    That's a pretty shitty Kia ora list though, it's a pity we didn't get the blockbusting loosie you mentioned that Kearney likes - what's JT up to next year? Surely we have some space in the cap ... hee hee.

    So, just so I understand this correctly. We swapped RFM for Shaun Lane who we promptly sold off to Manly. Nice work guys.

    Pack has got a bit of the softs about it ... although if Matulino goes beast mode it might all be good with Foran telling everyone where to run and the princess in 7 can do the stuff she''s good at.

    Oh well, readying myself for a year of disappointment.



  • Well, that's the highlight of my league season done and dusted @Sneakdefreak :)



  • @Sneakdefreak said in 2017 NRL Preview of the Warriors:

    Sneakdefreak’s best 17:

    Mannering 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Bodene Thompson

    Excellent back row, but they're all a bit 'same same' though! They really do lack an offensive weapon in their back row.



  • @Gunner agreed. Not sure you can play both Hoffman and Mannering, as they do the exact same thing.



  • While I agree with the sentiment, I'm happy with those players. Always put in an honest effort, will tackle themselves to a standstill and aren't prone to brain explosions. Thompson scored a few tries last season and always seems to run good lines. He's not gonna set the world on fire like Ali Lauititi might have in his prime, but also unlikely to do something stupid to cost them a game. The same goes for Mannering and Hoffman. They're reliable and hardworking.

    Too often in the past the Warriors have relied on those X-factor players, who can do as much harm as they can good, which kills them at crucial moments.

    If Matulino can get back to his best, I feel like he may end up the attacking weapon of the forward pack. With that spine we've got, I don't necessarily think it's a deal breaker to not have a weapon in the back row.



  • @mariner4life said in 2017 NRL Preview of the Warriors:

    @Gunner agreed. Not sure you can play both Hoffman and Mannering, as they do the exact same thing.

    They make a perfect secondrow imo - reliable tacklers on opposite edges who can run a straight line with the ball (no stopping or moving sideways).
    It's the rest of the forward pack I'm more concerned about. That, and we have a "meh" bench compared to other teams.



  • @Sneakdefreak said in 2017 NRL Preview of the Warriors:

    @mariner4life said in 2017 NRL Preview of the Warriors:

    @Gunner agreed. Not sure you can play both Hoffman and Mannering, as they do the exact same thing.

    They make a perfect secondrow imo - reliable tacklers on opposite edges who can run a straight line with the ball (no stopping or moving sideways).
    It's the rest of the forward pack I'm more concerned about. That, and we have a "meh" bench compared to other teams.

    Yeah I think our props are a concern as well. Lilyman is good and reliable, same category as Mannering, but Matulino has been a disappointment in the last two seasons, given how much he promised. I like Charlie Gubb and really admire his enthusiasm on the field, but agree with your assessment that he probably lacks the talent to be a long term prospect. He reminds me a bit of Mark Tookey from the 90's. A big heart and a bit of a cult figure, but will unlikely ever be one of the true greats



  • First squad named and they name everyone:

    VODAFONE WARRIORS

    1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)

    2 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA

    3 DAVID FUSITU’A

    4 SOLOMONE KATA

    5 KEN MAUMALO

    6 MAFOA’AEATA HINGANO

    7 SHAUN JOHNSON

    8 ALBERT VETE

    9 ISSAC LUKE

    10 CHARLIE GUBB

    11 BUNTY AFOA

    12 RYAN HOFFMAN

    13 SIMON MANNERING

    Interchange:

    14 ERIN CLARK

    15 JACOB LILLYMAN

    16 SAM LISONE

    17 ISAIAH PAPALI’I

    18 BODENE THOMPSON

    20 MASON LINO

    21 JAMES GAVET

    22 BLAKE AYSHFORD


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