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.
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?