Pre-season predicted finish: 7th
Actual finish: 10th
New Zealand Warriors 2017 Player Movements
I almost feel as though I could copy and paste the season reviews of pretty much every season the Warriors have ever competed in the NRL, bar the two they made the Grand Final.
Arguably one of the best rosters in the NRL was once again unable to find anything near the level of consistency needed to trouble other teams come September.
The NRL ladder doesn’t always accurately portray a team’s season overall, but in the Warriors is was spot on.
A 10th placed finish, with 10 wins and 14 losses, and a point’s differential of -88. Pretty much sums it all up. They were good, but not good enough.
Star Player: Solomone Kata
Shaun Johnson probably has a permanent hold on this each and every season however for mine Kata was a standout for the Warriors across the 21 NRL games he played in 2016.
Scoring 15 tries and making 17 line breaks, Kata went a long way to fulfilling the incredible hype that followed him into his NRL debut.
Johnson may have provided the ridiculous highlights, while Mannering provided the work horse stats, but Kata provided a bit of everything.
Amongst the first picked each and every week, it’s hard to see this kid not getting even better in 2017. Good luck to those tasked with tackling him.
Season Highlight: Round 13 through to Round 18
The Warriors had been trading a few wins with a few losses across the opening 13 rounds of the season before finding form that should have seen them play finals footy.
Wins, and big wins, over the Broncos and Knights, a two-point win over the Roosters and a win over the Titans, with their only blemish coming in golden point to the red hot Sharks, set them up well for a late-season assault.
Johnson was firing, Kata was unstoppable and the Warriors lesser named players were backing up their stars.
Unfortunately only two further wins followed as yet another season of promise fell by the wayside.
Best Signing: Kieran Foran (NRL Approval pending)
This was not a difficult decision as he was the only signing made by the club, but Foran is arguably the best signing heading into the 2017 season, across all clubs.
That is, if Foran can put his personal demons aside and focus on becoming the player he was during his successful stint at the Sea Eagles.
Coming into the 2016 season the Warriors had one of the premier fullbacks in the game, arguably, on his day, a top three halfback in the world, and a genuine superstar number nine. The only slight dip in an otherwise world class spine looked to be at five-eighth.
Foran’s signing should remedy that and give Johnson the best partner he has ever had during his career. This signing should allow Johnson to play his own game and share the workload, instead of playing two or three roles each game.
At the time of writing Foran was yet to be cleared by the NRL to return to the game, but should he be given said clearance, the Warriors should become a genuine premiership threat. SHOULD.
End to coach concerns: It was after every game the Warriors lost in 2016 that reports of Andrew McFadden’s imminent sacking hit the papers. Players and McFadden himself claimed it was never a distraction but it’s almost impossible to not take notice of reports like those. The coaching situation has finally been settled and won’t affect the 2017 season.
Foran’s signing: Supporting the obvious advantages of having a player of Foran’s abilities on board, the signing will also help get one of the NRL’s best players back on track, hopefully. After starting the 2016 season in brilliant form, Foran created headlines off the field for a variety of reasons and ultimately left the Eels. I genuinely hope Foran can put the troubles of 2016 behind him. Moving home certainly provides him the best opportunity to do so.
Season Grading: C
Warriors fans, on the back of signings RTS and Luke should have expected to see their team play finals footy. At times it looked a given that they would. At other times it looked like this side was more likely to finish in the bottom few.
Andrew McFadden was demoted to assistant coach to the incoming Stephen Kearney, who has been tasked with unlocking the secrets to ensuring the Warriors play to their potential week in, week out.
The squad has been slimmed down with a mountain of players exiting, although Leuluai aside they haven’t lost anything that cannot be replaced. Matulino’s injury is bad news but it has not been reported as a long term concern.
Surely the signing of Foran should allow this side to reach its potential. Then again I said the same thing last year when RTS and Luke signed, and probably the year before also.