A lifetime of underachieving: How to fix the Warriors

Michael Biec Roar Rookie

By , Michael Biec is a Roar Rookie New author!

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    For as long as I can remember, I’ve been hooked on the NRL.

    Growing up, I watched talents like Freddy Fitler and Joey Johns towards the back end of their careers. I watched the likes of Johnathan Thurston, Darren Lockyer, Billy Slater, Cam Smith, Greg Inglis and many others at the peak of their powers.

    Now I get the opportunity to watch the next crop of talents such as Nathan Cleary, James Tedesco and the Trbojevic brothers go at it.

    Over the years, few teams have had a lager talent pool, as well as so many promising stars, as the Warriors have. Unfortunately for me, I chose from a young age growing up in New Zealand that the Warriors would be my team.

    I can confidently say that sitting down and watching their games over the years has taken at least six months off of my life.

    I am however a firm believer that people should back their team through thick and thin. I believe that sometimes all the years of failure and underachieving means that when the day comes (hopefully) that the Warriors win the grand final, it will be a truly special moment, much like the Sharks’ grand final win last year and the Cowboys the year before.

    So why is it that the Warriors have fallen short for so long? Our roster is as strong as ever with players such as Shaun Johnson, Simon Mannering and David Fusitua. Combine that with our multiple marquee signings such as Ryan Hoffman, Roger Tuivasa Sheck, Issac Luke, Kieran Foran and it’s a real head scratcher as to why we haven’t been a top eight team since 2011, the same year we lost the grand final to Manly.

    The main area I believe the Warriors need to sort out if they are to win a premiership is a quality five-eighth to work with Johnson. Look at what a huge difference Kieran Foran has made for us in attack this year.

    Kieran Foran New Zealand Warriors NRL Rugby League 2017

    (AAP Image/David Rowland)

    Unfortunately though, Kieran will be going to his fourth club in four years in 2018, as he links up with his former mentor Des Hasler at the Bulldogs, with whom he won a premiership under, against the Warriors.

    So who do we get to replace him? Here are the current contenders, as well as a couple of off contract players that I think we should look into.

    Ata Hingano
    20 year old Ata Hingano is currently the first in line for a shot at first receiver after re-signing with the Warriors through until 2020. Ata has played a handful of first grade so far, debuting off the bench last year and starting the 2017 season as the starting half while Kieran Foran was suspended/injured.

    Personally, I am more than happy to give Ata the first crack at making the jersey his own. He’s come through their Holden Cup system and has been playing consistently in the Intrust Super Premiership (NSW cup) against grown men.

    He has shown enough in his limited time in first grade and I think it’s great for rugby league in New Zealand if we are developing a young half who could potentially go on to contribute well for the national side in the future.

    Ata will have a great opportunity in the coming weeks, with Kieran Foran looking likely to spend at least a week or two on the sidelines after picking up an injury in the win over the Titans. With the Origin period in full swing, the Warriors should start their mid season revival and Ata could be a major cog in achieving a finals push.

    Sadly, I just can’t see us making the eight this year, with at least ten teams being much more consistent than we are.

    Te Marie Martin
    With a singular Kiwis Test cap to his name already at the age of 21, Te Marie has been identified as a major target for the Warriors. Coming through the junior ranks at the Tigers and currently languishing in reserve grade and seemingly out of favour at he Panthers, Te Marie has been strongly linked with the Warriors.

    Te Marie has shown some amazing talent in his time in the NRL and I’d love to see him bring that to the Warriors. However, reports of of Penrith are that coach Anthony Griffin has concerns over Martin’s physicality. This isn’t what I want to hear, as the Warriors already have a lot of trouble in terms of physically maintaining a finals brand of football over the course of 80 minutes.

    I think we would be better off backing Hingano, but I wouldn’t mind the signing of Martin as sort of a second option to put pressure on the starting halves and give the club quality depth to cover for inevitable injuries throughout the season.

    James Maloney
    Rumours have been doing the rounds that the Warriors are one of many clubs keen to try and lure James Maloney to their club – and I couldn’t be happier. James is exactly what we need and he has been the missing link 100 per cent since he left the Warriors at the conclusion of the 2012 season.

    James has publicly stated that he feels he should be getting paid a lot more at the Sharks than his current contract. While I think contracts should be honoured and not be a joke like they currently are, but I can also see where Maloney is coming from.

    James Maloney of the Sharks

    (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

    When you see stars who haven’t accomplished a quarter of what James has done (Kayln Ponga, Ben Hunt, Daly Cherry-Evans) getting phenomenal contracts to sort them out for life, you wonder who will show Maloney the money. Football is a fickle sport and injuries and other circumstances can end a career just like that.

    At the end of the day players need to look after themselves and their family, because footy isn’t forever. Most players retire around 30 and play fewer than 100 games.

    I believe the Warriors should throw as much money as we possibly can and lure him over for three or four years. Give him stability in terms of the duration of his contract and give him plenty of money – maybe even topping it up each year as players like Simon Mannering and Manu Vatuvei finish their lengthy careers at the club.

    If there’s any player who can get us over the line when it matters most, it’s this man. Just look at what he’s done since he left the Warriors for greener pastures.

    Connor Watson
    Hailing from Dubbo in New South Wales, Connor is the only one on this list not currently in the Warriors sights. If we can’t land Maloney and if nobody can make the jersey their own through within the club, then I would put Connor Watson forward as a perfect signing.

    Capable of playing in the halves, fullback and at hooker, Connor is one of the next top talents in the NRL for sure. He won the MVP for player of the tournament at the Auckland Nines this year and showed at the back end of last year with the Roosters that he was an NRL ready starting half.

    With Luke Keary and Mitchell Pearce having the starting halves spots locked down at the Roosters, a couple of clubs have tried to lure Watson away mid season, but so far he has remained present at the Bondi venture.

    I love what I see from this kid in regards to his speed, his passing and his general decision making. The fact that he can cover for pretty much any injury in the back line makes him an extremely handy addition to the team. I also think it would continue somewhat of a trend for the Warriors in recent times in terms of having an up and coming Australian 5/8 to develop at the Warriors. Think James Maloney, Chad Townsend, Grant Rovelli, Nathan Fien and Harry Seijka.

    Anyway, that’s how I believe our halves pairing could be improved. I’m not sure whether this has been very good or not, as I’ve never written before but if anyone found it enjoyable, I am looking to follow up on this with realistic changes that the Warriors could make to their forwards in the quest for their maiden title.