The New Zealand Warriors in 2019, much like almost every year in the history of the club, were consistently inconsistent.
A vasectomy. Israel Folau’s Instagram feed. Ricky Stuart after a Canberra loss. Adam Sandler’s entire filmography back to back.
All are less painful than watching the Warriors.
Eight rounds gone and the Kiwis have emerged as serious contenders for the wooden spoon.
An improved defensive effort against the Storm flattered to deceive. The Warriors played well, missing several starters, but Melbourne haven’t been very… Melbourne-like of late.
It wasn’t lost on Craig Bellamy either, who publicly questioned if his players wanted to play for the jersey after a poor performance against the injury-ravaged Sharks.
If they didn’t, he’d find some players who would.
Tough stuff. I can only imagine what was said behind closed doors. Pass the popcorn.
Unsurprisingly, Stephen Kearney was more forgiving of his players after an error-ridden display against a Knights side that looks better on paper than performances suggest.
That’s not to take anything from Newcastle, who played well, completing 29 of 32 sets with just four errors. They were deserved winners.
Kearney was again reluctant to criticise his forward pack, who were this time bullied by David Klemmer and his big angwy fwiends in front of their home crowd.
Post-match, Kearney lamented the Warriors’ inability to adjust to their opponents’ kicking tactics, repeatedly finding touch to take Roger Tuivasa-Sheck out of the game.
It was a surprising comment from the coach considering the same tactics were employed by the Cowboys and Manly. It can’t have come as a surprise.
Equally as concerning was Mitchell Pearce dancing over from short range to score. It could be a glitch in the Matrix, but I’m sure I saw him do the exact same thing to seal the win against Parramatta the week before.
It’s hard to see many positives at the club right now, but the start to centre Patrick Herbert’s career is one and so is the arrival of Kodi Nikorima. And at least Adam Blair won’t concede any soft penalties this week.
Nikorima is a great buy for the club right now. He doesn’t have to be Shaun Johnson 2.0, he just needs to be better than the young halves and add some confidence to support Blake Green. Which he will do.
Whether the Auckland club need another long-term utility player is less certain, but there is no doubting Nikorima’s talent and hopefully he can help turn the ship around. Assuming it’s still above water.
Last year, they showed they could stay in the grind, winning games off the back of unbending defence. This year it’s bending more than a room full of Olympic gymnasts playing Twister.
Kearney has persisted with a smaller forward pack. Nathaniel Roache and Jazz Tevaga have both featured from the bench in recent weeks, utility players and lightweight by NRL standards.
Hayze Perham has been included as halves cover but only played the last ten minutes against the Knights, with the game all but gone.
Modern rugby league is a 17-man game. The physical toll is massive. Having two utilities and a half on the bench is a luxury the Warriors can’t afford.
They are getting overpowered late by bigger packs. Combined with a high number of errors and low completion rates, it’s suicide.
The clipboard holder either needs to find some grunt or a new plan. Nikorima will help, but he needs others to pull their weight; more than their weight.
Maybe it’s time Kearney follows his old Melbourne mentor and gets tough. If Adam Blair’s form is a case study for the differing approaches, it’s a no-brainer.
And while Kearney’s support for his players might be well-intentioned, if he doesn’t get tough, maybe club management might.
Andrew McFadden could tell him that coaching is a tough old gig.