Once were Warriors: What’s wrong in Auckland?

Thomas Costigan Roar Rookie

By Thomas Costigan, Thomas Costigan is a Roar Rookie

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    Another year has passed, and another blemish on the NRL that is the New Zealand Warriors.

    For years I’ve been struggling to figure why it is that the Warriors continue to disappoint and underperform during the NRL season. It’s been six long years since their last trip to the NRL Finals, where rookie Shaun Johnson led his side all the way to the grand final with his dazzling feet, only to fall short to perennial rugby league powerhouse, the Manly Warringah Sea-Eagles.

    From there, the future seemed bright. A team led by a talented rookie on the field, and a former player off the field in Ivan Cleary. But since the heroics of the 2011 season, the Warriors have failed to deliver on their promised potential.

    Like many pundits this year, I tipped the Warriors to make the finals and break their drought. I even tipped them to make the Top 4 (I know, how foolish of me). But how couldn’t you tip them based on that side?

    A fit and firing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck returning from injury with the captain’s armband on, it seemed hope was alive. I mean, look at that spine. RTS, Foran, Johnson and Issac Luke. How could you bet against that? With all of his troubles in the past, I thought a Kieran Foran away from Sydney could guide the Warriors to a finals berth.

    Oh how naive I was.

    Left disappointed week in and week out, I struggle to find the underlying problem of this underachieving club.

    Jacob Saifiti, left, and Tyler Randell of the Newcastle Knights tackle Roger Tuivasa-Sheck of the Warriors

    (AAP Image/David Rowland)

    Journalist Paul Kent said the obvious problem with the Warriors is simply that there are too many New Zealanders in the side, with there soft development program hindering their performance, unable for them to tough it out in an 80-minute match.

    “The fundamental problem, and this will sound absurd, but there are too many Kiwis in the side”, Kent said on Fox Sports NRL 360 earlier this year.

    Leading New Zealand Herald columnist Dale Budge, enhanced Kent’s view and stated that it is through the poor development of their junior system that impacts their performance when they get to first grade.

    “Problem is the development has been terrible and that is the key reason why the Warriors haven’t enjoyed more success in recent years. The Warriors have been a development club that simply hasn’t spat out NRL-ready first graders, which is the key way to balance your roster and manage your salary cap.”

    However, this failing influx of recruiting and developing Kiwi players doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Already, the Warriors have signed Kiwi captain Adam Blair on a lucrative four-year, $2.4 million deal, while they have also signed Gerald Beale, Tohu Harris and Leivaha Pulu.

    With these signings, I just hope they do not fall into the same trend of former players who have gone to the Warriors and actually got worse.

    Matty Johns said this earlier this year on Triple M’s NRL Grill Team when asked what problems the Warriors face, “The worst rap a club can have is that when players go there, they get worse.”

    Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was one of the most damaging ball runners in the game at the end of 2015, winning the Dally M Fullback of the Year, and is now struggling to average 200m a game, where he did it with ease at the Roosters.

    Issac Luke was a force in the NRL, before his tenure at the Warriors left him being axed from the Kiwi side, while Ryan Hoffman was dropped from the NSW Blues team in 2016 after only spending a year at the Warriors.

    For the sake of the NRL and rugby league in general, we need the Warriors to become a consistent and challenging team, fighting for the Premiership. If we want the game to grow in New Zealand and compete with the All Blacks and rugby union, the Warriors need to lead the way and inspire the next generation of Kiwi superstars.

    What do you think Roarers?

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    The Crowd Says (28)

    • October 13th 2017 @ 9:00am
      Nambawan said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

      The Warriors are/were my ‘second team’ as I usually found them to be interesting and entertaining to watch. It is a mystery and profound disappointment why they have failed in recent years.

      I attended a Manly Warriors game at Mt. Smart a couple of years ago and it was a very good experience there with excellent facilities and a knowledgeable support base.

      There are plenty of league and union players in NZ to draw from, and their under 20s side dominated that comp for several years – so depth should not have proven to be a problem.

      Coaching and identification and retention of talent appears to be a major problem.

      Several talented younger players have been lost to Australia, such as Taukeiaho at Easts who is just the type of player needed at the Warriors.

      A very good young centre in Ngane Laumape was languisihng in the reserves an d then went to union, and is now an

      The coaching has been very questionable and it does seems that even Australian players go down hill there – Ryan Hoffman immediately comes to mind in that regard.

    • October 13th 2017 @ 10:13am
      Paul said | October 13th 2017 @ 10:13am | ! Report

      The Paul Kent logic makes no sense. He talks about a “soft development system” that does not produce ready made first graders. Okay, I get that, but it does not explain why a side full of experienced first graders isn’t doing better. As the author has pointed out, this is almost a Test side when they have their best on the park, but they simply aren’t performing.

      The side that made the GF bucked the trend of Australian based NRL sides by playing a much looser brand of attacking football and this is something Kiwi/Islander players are renowned for doing ( Benji Marshall did this really effectively for the Tigers in 2005). I think this has been coached out of them in recent years because guys like Kearney have been brought up under the Melbourne system of structured play.

      If Auckland could combine structured defence with less structured attack, I think they would re-create their “brand”, which would give the team confidence and lead to better results. If they keep trying to play footie like other nRL sides, they’ll continue to fail

      • October 13th 2017 @ 11:30am
        Peter Phelps said | October 13th 2017 @ 11:30am | ! Report

        If the development process is so weak and the Warriors are so bad because they have too many Kiwis, then why is New Zealand 1st / 2nd in the world rankings ?

      • October 13th 2017 @ 5:03pm
        Dan said | October 13th 2017 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

        Spot on. Like the PNG Hunters in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, who played very lose with a you score I’ll score more than you and win attitude. When I watch the Hunters now, I see them really thinking about getting the percentages. Kicking to the sides, slowly being coached out of them is the attacking from inside their own 10m zone. In the end the thinking as opposed to playing naturally snuffle’s out the islanders game. The coach must find a balance as you point out for the team to be successful.

    • October 13th 2017 @ 11:22am
      Fox Lvy said | October 13th 2017 @ 11:22am | ! Report

      The Warriors famous phase is “my year” Last year was our year, ended up with nothing! This year is my year, empty hands again! Now they sign Blair and people say truly next year will be our year.

      What’s wrong in Auckland? Jesus knows the answer: “my time is not yet coming”

    • October 13th 2017 @ 11:33am
      Peter Phelps said | October 13th 2017 @ 11:33am | ! Report

      If the NRL wanted to sort out the Warriors problems they could do worse than interview Ryan Hoffman. Ryan has been schooled the best clubs in the UK & Australia and just come back from a 3 year stint at the Warriors where he was Captain for 1 year. I am certain that he could give some useful insights into exactly what is wrong in Auckland.

      • October 13th 2017 @ 2:48pm
        Stu said | October 13th 2017 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

        1st question for Hoffman would be when did you forget how to tackle?

        • October 13th 2017 @ 9:07pm
          Peter Phelps said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:07pm | ! Report

          As he is no longer at the warriors, I doubt that question would help them.

    • October 13th 2017 @ 11:45am
      zim said | October 13th 2017 @ 11:45am | ! Report

      It’s “almost” a test side. Missing (players of note) up until now:
      Bromwich
      Proctor
      Harris
      Taumalolo
      Tapau
      Blair
      Manu Ma’u
      Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

      That’s a hell of a lot out of the pack. They are missing a marquee forward. Matulino took a step backwards in 2017 partly because of injury. But NZ really needs to fix their pack. Harris is a good start. Personally I think Blair is a terrible signing for on the field but should help off it.
      Off the back of that Isaac Luke might actually start to look effective but I wouldn’t hold my breath. They need to look at signing a replacement for him to fix their biggest spine problem.
      Foran would have been the biggest spine issue if he was still there but they have a replacement for him in Hingano that should be better for his time in first grade.

      What Paul Kent says is true. Having a better development system allows you to have access to that better depth, especially with NZ, where players can slot straight in when you have injuries and also creates a culture through all your grades (reserve / 20s) that matches what you’re trying to achieve.
      Alex Corvo is a good step in the right direction.

    • Roar Guru

      October 13th 2017 @ 11:55am
      Nat said | October 13th 2017 @ 11:55am | ! Report

      Put simply, it’s the Forwards. People talk about the Warriors fielding the test team – no, they have a rep quality backline. Only Simon Mannering is a rep quality forward and even without Bromwich and Proctor, he is the only Warrior forward named in the NZ Team. For all the flair of the backline, they all need the platform to attack from. That said Luke, Johnson and Foran should be directing these young forwards around. They are not short of quality big boys but their talk in attack and defence means they are chasing the scoreboard quite early in most games. Blair and Harris should give them some starch and experience to help with the younger forwards.

      • October 13th 2017 @ 12:42pm
        Thomas Costigan said | October 13th 2017 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

        Hey Nat, yeh that is true. I feel like Mannering has been carrying this team and the forward pack on his own. The problem is that they need some grunt and brut force up front like they had with Ruben Wiki. Also, I love Shaun Johnson as a player, but ever since James Maloney left he hasn’t had a quality half by his side for a consistent amount of time. Thomas Leuluai was good but didn’t really help Johnson’s development that much. Whereas, guys like Jeff Robson, Lolohea and Hingano have either been too young or too old to steer the team around the park. I thought Foran would be the perfect fit for Johnson but looks like his physical and mental health caught up with him again.

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