Manaia Cherrington (released), James Gavet (Newcastle Knights), Anthony Gelling (Widnes Vikings), Shaun Johnson (Cronulla Sharks), Mason Lino (Newcastle Knights), Simon Mannering (retired), Zac Santo (released), Albert Vete (Melbourne Storm)
The Warriors returned to finals football for the first time in a long time under the watch of Stephen Kearney. Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had an amazing season culminating in his being rewarded with the Dally M medal.
Although they would exit the finals in the first week, the improvement across the park from 2017 was there for all to see. The players looked confident again and above all else they looked fit.
Blake Green was a masterpiece of recruitment and will play a super important role in the Warriors upcoming season, especially now given the exit of Shaun Johnson.
Unfortunately, 2018 ended on a horror note as the aforementioned exit of Shaun Johnson has left a huge hole in their line up moving forward. How they replace their superstar will surely go a long way to deciding their 2019 fate.
Best Recruit: Leeson Ah Mau
With the retirement of Simon Mannering, the Warriors needed to bring in a big man to make an impact. In former Dragon Leeson Ah Mau, they’ve found a handy replacement.
Ah Mau was arguably the competition’s best bench forward in 2018 and will likely fill a similar position for his new club moving forward.
He’s not a huge name but the very talented local boy returns to the Warriors with five Test caps for New Zealand. Look for big impact off the bench by the 29 who is in the best form of his career
Star Player: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
The reigning Dally M medallist becomes even more important to his side’s fortunes in 2019 following the exit by Shaun Johnson. Given his 2018, I’m sure he’s up to it.
RTS had a monster 2018. He was in literally everything that was good for the Warriors. He scored tries, he laid off try assists, he broke the line and he made a mountain of metres.
112 tackle breaks, 13 line breaks, 4105 running metres, 1336 kick return metres. If you ever needed proof that a player was hard to tackle, RTS’s 2018 provide just those stats.
Given his side will start with a rookie halfback, RTS will be looked at to create plenty in attack. I have absolutely no doubt in the world he will relish the challenge and produce big for his side this season. Superstar!
Young Gun/One To Watch: Chanel Harris-Tavita
19-year-old Chanel Harris-Tavita is the most likely to enter round one in the number seven for the Warriors. The 2017 NYC Warriors player of the year has huge boots to fill but has plenty of talent.
Fans will know the youngster from his ridiculous kick and regather late last year for the junior Kiwis over the junior Roos.
With speed to burn and crazy footwork, he will be given time to play his way into first grade but the pressure will be on from round one. I’m really excited to see what he can provide in the early rounds.
Slight in build but big on confidence and skill, he is certainly one to watch in regards to future stars of the competition.
Recruitment Grade: D-
With all due respect to those players making their way into the Warriors headquarters in 2019, the Warriors have failed to land a big signing, while losing the biggest name their club has ever seen.
Leeson Ah Mau is the only recruit likely to play first grade in the early rounds and he even he will come off the bench.
On the plus side, the departure of Johnson has left the Warriors with a war chest for 2019. They’ll be in play for any players who are unhappy in 2019. Look for a big move before June.
The Warriors looked as though they have missed a trick by not landing a big-name replacement for Mannering or a star centre. That said before Johnson left they may not have been in financial shape to do so.
Before I continue, I had the Warriors finishing 16th last season and they ended up playing finals footy. Book those finals tickets in advance Warriors fans.
That said, this Warriors outfit just doesn’t look like one capable of playing finals football.
They have a genuine megastar of the game in RTS, while Blake Green is the most underrated half in the competition. David Fusitua is the competition’s most lethal winger and scores tries for fun.
Issac Luke had a monster 2018 after being at short odds to be moved on due to an underwhelming 2017 season.
There is talent there, but 1 to 17, the Warriors just lack the quality of the big sides.
Blake Green enters 2019 under huge pressure. Whichever way the Warriors turn, they’ll either have a rookie halfback or a player shifting positions. That is not a great way to enter 2019 in the game’s most important position.
Their failure to replace Mannering with a top quality, experienced second-rower or lock, leaves them looking light on up front.
The way the Warriors play their footy, they will upset plenty of sides in 2019, but I can’t see the points in this side to win enough game to challenge for finals.