With just over a week to go until the NRL kicks off, we lay down an extended preview for each club. Today is the Warriors.
Ins: Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, Adam Pompey, Eliesa Katoa (upgraded from development contract), Wayde Egan (Panthers)
Outs: Blayke Ayshford (retired), Issac Luke (Dragons), Tevita Satae (Hull FC), Ligi Sao (Hull FC), Sam Lisone (Titans)
The Warriors finished 13th in 2019, two games and a huge points differential out of finals positions. Nine wins and 14 losses. -141 points differential.
That makes for pretty dire reading for a side jam packed with so much talent … because it was.
At times they were good. At times they were incredible. Unfortunately most times they were average, or worse.
A full season sans Shaun Johnson really didn’t move them any closer to finding a long-term option at 6/7, however they did sign Kodi Nikorima who now has a full off-season in the system under his belt.
Predicted Best Player: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Not exactly going out on a limb here but I can’t see anything but yet another RTS masterclass across the ditch in 2020. He was the 2018 Dally M medalist and very well could have won it last year also.
He eats metres for fun, busts tackles for laughs, and can score a try from literally anywhere. Simply put, he’s one of the game’s elite players in every way.
He’s one of the rare fullbacks who can top both the try scoring and try assisting tallies at the club, and is once again the main man for the Warriors.
Predicted Top Scorer: Ken Maumalo
This was really a case of “pick your winger” but there are serious reports suggesting that David Fusitu’a may be headed for a shift to the centres. This leaves the hulking, towering New Zealand regular as top of the list.
He scored 15 tries last season, finishing in the top five try scorers. One would assume similar numbers this year are not out of the question.
There are questions re the creativity within this squad, especially in the halves, but I’d be shocked if a fully fit Maumalo didn’t score at least 14 tries this year.
Wade Egan is the only “name” addition to the Warriors squad in 2020. I mean no disrespect by that, I just hate the term, but he’s a player NRL fans would likely recognise.
Given the exit of Issac Luke, Egan looks set to start and become the Warriors number nine. He could be relegated to the bench if they decide Nikorima’s best position is in the hooker role.
I expected the Warriors to be big players in the market, and it sounded as though they attempted to be, however they missed out on plenty of names.
Egan is a solid player with a big upside but I can’t see a Damien Cook style season turning the club’s fortunes around.
2020 Final Position: 16th
As I’ve stated previously, Warriors fans can take great excitement out of the fact that every team I predict to finish last ends up playing finals (or close to).
I love watching this club play no matter who is on the roster. The days of Stacy Jones shifted into Shaun Johnson, leaving a huge amount of highlights.
I’m sure we’ll see plenty of highlights this season from RTS, Maumalo and Fusitu’a, who I’m really excited to see shift into the centres and become more involved.
That said, this side just doesn’t possess the strike power to push for a finals position.
Very happy to be wrong, as the Warriors playing well makes weekends far more exciting, but the creativity just isn’t there.
Blake Green is a wonderful player, hugely underrated, but he works best when he’s guiding a dominant half. Not so well when he is the dominant half.
Nikorima is a player of great potential and talent, however was given a first class ticket to exit the Bronocs despite them not having a ready made replacement ready to play seven.
Isaiah Papali’i is one of the game’s most exciting young forwards, but I’m not in love with the rest of the forward pack.
Expect plenty of highlights but unfortunately our neighbours to the East will be fighting against a wooden spoon battle if they don’t start brilliantly.