Who is this team and what have they done with the Warriors?

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    The first two rounds of this year’s NRL season have seen plenty of upsets, but there is one team that is making me look a right fool at the moment and that’s the New Zealand Warriors.

    It’s way too early to declare that the predictions I made at the start of the season were incorrect, but should the Warriors continue with the form that has so far seen them defeat the South Sydney Rabbitohs 32-20 in Round 1 and the Gold Coast Titans 20-8 in Round 2, then placing them at the bottom of the ladder will prove to be a significant error on my part.

    In commentary about the Warriors first two victories, there has been plenty of focus on a couple of players.

    Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has been a standout. Last weekend against the Rabbitohs, he had two try assists and looked dangerous every time he touched the ball. He also made a try-saving tackle on Alex Johnston and bundled him into touch, which Stephen Kearney called out in particular as a moment of inspiration for his squad.

    Against the Titans, Tuivasa-Sheck scored another try, saved another and almost made 200 metres.

    David Fusitu’a is also running in tries for fun. He scored a double against the Rabbitohs and bagged another double against the Titans. ‘The Fus’ is certainly an entertainer and after his World Cup appearance for Tonga last year, footy fans are coming to expect athletic finishes from the 23-year-old.

    And then there is Shaun Johnson. Last weekend the loss for the Bunnies was played down because ‘when Shaun Johnson is in one of those moods, there’s very little you can do about it’. In Round 1, he finished the game with two linebreaks and two try assists, but most pleasing of all was the return of his running game, which the star halfback is known for. Then against the Titans that continued with another two try assists and two linebreaks.

    Shaun Johnson

    (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

    But these players are not new to the Warriors. It doesn’t make sense to me that all of a sudden these players all find themselves to be in exquisite form. So what’s changed?

    There have been two differences.

    As a rugby league fan, I don’t have an expectation that my team will win every weekend. I do have an expectation, though, that the players will try their best each week and that the players are fit.

    The men on the field are paid as professional athletes and it is completely unacceptable when I see a team that is clearly fat and unfit.

    Fat and unfit are two words that I have used to describe the Warriors in years gone past, particularly the last two years where, despite having one of the most talented rosters in the NRL, the squad has finished towards the bottom end of the ladder.

    I cannot make this accusation this year.

    Plenty of that credit can belong to the new head of high performance, Alex Corvo, who comes to the Warriors having also done stints at the Brisbane Broncos and Melbourne Storm. He is a man with a reputation as a hard trainer, so much so that Adam Blair knew plenty of his Warriors teammates would get a ‘rude shock’ in pre-season.

    For the first time in a long time, the Warriors look fit.

    The errors that have been a feature of their game in years gone by have not disappeared – in fact, against the Rabbitohs they made ten errors and completed at under 70 per cent. But being fit means they are able to stay in it for the entire contest and produce performances that see the squad make 24 offloads.

    The player that seems to have benefited the most from this new fitness regime is Issac Luke, who is beginning to show signs that he is returning to the form which saw him as a stand-out player for Souths. At 88 kilograms, Luke dropped six kilos over the off-season, making him the leanest he has been since 2015. And it shows.

    The second difference is Blake Green – a rugby league journeyman by any stretch of the imagination.

    I underestimated what a positive influence he would be for the Warriors, but since his arrival, he has demonstrated he’s the perfect foil for Shaun Johnson. Green’s skill set allows him to help steer the Warriors allowing Johnson to play his natural game – a game which features plenty of attacking flair.

    Many Warriors have also spoken about his professionalism, maturity and the impact he has had on other players. He has been called a leader – this also shows on the field.

    It makes me extremely uncomfortable to say this, because I know I have been burned in the past… but the Warriors could be the real deal in 2018.

    And even if they disappoint like they have in the past, they are playing attacking footy which I just can’t help getting around.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (46)

    • March 20th 2018 @ 6:45am
      i miss the force said | March 20th 2018 @ 6:45am | ! Report

      “despite having one of the most talented rosters in the NRL,” this is a common misconception – their forward pack has been terrible the last couple of years both on paper and on paper

      • Columnist

        March 20th 2018 @ 9:08am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 20th 2018 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        I disagree with this – say what you will about the forwards, but RTS, and Shaun Johnson are close to being some of the best players in the world. As an Eels fan I would kill to have even one player that was close to being ‘best in the world’ quality.

        • March 20th 2018 @ 11:02am
          Dexter The Hamster said | March 20th 2018 @ 11:02am | ! Report

          Hayne???

          • Columnist

            March 20th 2018 @ 11:13am
            Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 20th 2018 @ 11:13am | ! Report

            It’s been a while since I think you could call Hayne ‘one of the best players in the world’…

            • March 20th 2018 @ 12:33pm
              Dexter The Hamster said | March 20th 2018 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

              Sorry Mary, I had my tongue firmly planted in my cheek when I typed that one out…

              • Columnist

                March 20th 2018 @ 1:32pm
                Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 20th 2018 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

                I’m an Eels fan – I’ll believe anything!! 😛

        • March 20th 2018 @ 7:48pm
          Aem said | March 20th 2018 @ 7:48pm | ! Report

          Skill position stars are great and all, but how often do teams have success without a quality group of middle forwards?

          Some of the younger guys look to be continuing their progress (Afoa showing leg speed not seen since his 20s days), but gee… it’s thin on the ground at the Warriors.

    • March 20th 2018 @ 7:51am
      Forty Twenty said | March 20th 2018 @ 7:51am | ! Report

      It’s always hard as an outsider to see why a team clicks or otherwise. The killer spine they put together a couple of years ago is largely intact and they seem to be playing like the killer spine they are.

      A lot of us fans want simple answers for things that aren’t simple. One of the easiest explanations is that Blake Green has arrived. This seemed to go to script when the team he left were beaten in the first round and he won well.

      Someone said to me Manly win easily if Green was still at Brookie. Thing is he was at Brookie when Manly got well beaten in the first two rounds last year. Last year with Green we went down to the Eels by 10 points or so but this year we beat them by 54 points with Lachlan Croker at 5/8. Doesn’t prove much about either player or club.

      The Dogs were meant to improve out of sight when Disco Des was shuffled out the door and someone who got the culture was rightfully put back on the throne. Not many at the Dogs doubted that Pay would do a better job.

      So far this cultural shift hasn’t done much but loosen the dogs of war type defence.

      Most years I looked at the Warriors and thought they would be dangerous , this year I didn’t bother to think much but with that spine I couldn’t see them getting the spoon.

      I wasn’t as unhappy as many when Green left as I don’t rate him as highly as many, really good kicker and game manager but a poor runner and a below average defender. So far this is working well for the Warriors.

      • Roar Rookie

        March 20th 2018 @ 1:25pm
        Hard Yards said | March 20th 2018 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

        Yes, Green. I think the Storm were happy that Manly were happy to pick him up last year, and I think Manly were happy that the Warriors are happy to pay him this year. Good luck to him, he’s in the twilght zone now anyway I guess.

        You are right about the ‘Manly win when Green is there’ myth. Manly copped some absolute shellackings last year: twice from the Storm and the Dragons – even at Brookie. Even over at Perth on 1 July last year, when the Warriors shot out to a 16-0 lead, it was DCE that saved the day – not Mr Green. I remember the date because my left arm went numb and I became really clammy. Thought I was going to need a quick trip to Mona Vale hospital before Dr. DCE turned up.

        • March 20th 2018 @ 5:13pm
          Forty Twenty said | March 20th 2018 @ 5:13pm | ! Report

          I’ve looked into the issue before Yardsy and players who Manly let go have very rarely come back to bite us on the ankle. The closest one is king Gutho but injured players don’t bite.

          Remarkably the only player I can recall in many years who left a hole in our ranks was JWH who was sorely missed. Unlike Green we didn’t let him go by choice.

          Heaps of players have faded away after leaving the Northern beaches .

    • March 20th 2018 @ 8:31am
      KingCowboy said | March 20th 2018 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      Really Mary? You are ready to trust the Warriors after only two weeks? You are a lot more trusting person then I am. I can not disagree with one word in your article but I just can’t trust them yet.

      • Columnist

        March 20th 2018 @ 9:09am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 20th 2018 @ 9:09am | ! Report

        KingCowboy, I cannot disagree with what you have said either. Let’s touch base in 4 weeks and see if I am bitterly disappointed…

        • March 20th 2018 @ 9:15am
          KingCowboy said | March 20th 2018 @ 9:15am | ! Report

          ha ha, I will hold you to that Mary. But on a serious note, for the good of the game, I really hope that this is a new dawn for the Kiwis. Their style of play just brings so much to the game and when they are on, they are great to watch. I want to see them go well but not against us.

          • March 20th 2018 @ 11:04am
            Dexter The Hamster said | March 20th 2018 @ 11:04am | ! Report

            Agree Cowboy, they are great to watch when they are going well.

    • Roar Guru

      March 20th 2018 @ 8:43am
      The Barry said | March 20th 2018 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      I’m with KingCowboy.

      How many seasons in the past have we announced the Warriors arrival to see them crash and burn?

      They certainly do look good but their form is yet to be franked for mine, with wins over Souths and the Titans. We don’t really know where anyone sits at the moment but I don’t think either of those teams will make the eight. If that is the case then the Warriors have beaten two bottom eight teams, one at home, one at a neutral venue.

      I’m not ready to declare them on that basis…but can’t wait to see more from them.

      • March 20th 2018 @ 9:31am
        Cedric said | March 20th 2018 @ 9:31am | ! Report

        they are away against Canberra on Saturday, that should be a good test. I do think the Knights, Tigers and Warriors after being at the bottom of last years ladder are presenting well with the injection of new talent, fitness and the best ingredient self belief. Time will tell and it has been awesome to watch, more so the Tigers with the high flyer scalps.

      • March 20th 2018 @ 9:58am
        Andy said | March 20th 2018 @ 9:58am | ! Report

        NOt many times at all I think this is the first time they’ve had two wins to start the season in many years and only the 2nd or third time in their history

        • Roar Guru

          March 20th 2018 @ 1:44pm
          The Barry said | March 20th 2018 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

          Come on mate – every season at some stage they go on a run of wins and everyone jumps on board.

          It may have happened a bit earlier this year but I’m not ready to call them based on two wins against Souths and the Titans

      • March 20th 2018 @ 10:23am
        Albo said | March 20th 2018 @ 10:23am | ! Report

        You are right, Baz. We have seen it all before, so we can’t get too carried away after two matches against teams not expected to feature in September. But I will say, there does appear to be a serious attempt to present a much fitter and more focused Warriors team right from game 1 of the season. Whether they can maintain the focus will now be the question. But they have started with two wins without their main stalwart Simon Mannering in the pack. So they will soon get a stronger look to their pack, which can only enhance the opportunities for their spine. Apart from their stars Johnson & RTS, Tahu Harris & Blake Green provide an experienced steadying influence, Isaac Luke has hit the season running and David Fusitu’a should score a bag full of tries this year. Time will tell if there has been a transformation here or just another tease.

    • March 20th 2018 @ 9:19am
      greg said | March 20th 2018 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      From round 4 until round 8 the Warriors play the Roosters, Cowboys, Broncos, Dragons, and Storm. In round 9 they may be on a five match losing streak.

      • Columnist

        March 20th 2018 @ 9:22am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 20th 2018 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        Greg, I would rather play some of those teams now (earlier in the season) before they really hit their straps.

    • March 20th 2018 @ 10:06am
      Johnny Boy said | March 20th 2018 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      Never trust the Warriors, never….

      Our forwards are the smallest in the comp which is contrary to popular opinion. We will struggle against the bigger and better teams.

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