Predicted Finish: 8th
Actual Finish: 13th
Best Performer: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Although the Warriors were far from their attacking best in 2017, RTS was electric. Nine tries, 15 line breaks, and a mountain of tackle breaks. Incredibly across 22 games he managed almost 4000 running metres, over 1000 more than the nearest Warrior.
With the Warriors on the wrong end of some horror scorelines, RTS was charged with bringing the ball out from his own end more often than not, so that is not a padded stat by any means.
Although a fair few Warriors wouldn’t be overly happy with their 2017 efforts, RTS is not one of them.
Season Highlight: Round 6: 22-10 win over the Eels
The Warriors weren’t able to produce too many complete performances but in round 6 against the Eels, they got it right.
Despite a slow start to the season, the Eels would finish in the top four, so this was no easy beat outfit. Tries from Bodene Thompson (2), Ken Maumalo and Simon Mannering would see the Warriors triumph in front of a crowd of almost 15,000.
The Warriors home form across the season wasn’t overly bad, with six home wins from 11 games. This was probably not their best performance overall but considering the talent of the opposition, it is probably the most fondly remembered.
Best Signing: Blake Green
Blake Green is literally the perfect signing for the Warriors. He compliments Shaun Johnson perfectly. Just as he did for DCE and Cooper Cronk in the past two seasons, Green chimes in, runs the ball, creates plenty of repeat sets, and ultimately takes the pressure away from his playmaker.
I’m a fan of Greens and am very happy to see him released to enjoy the payday he has deserved, and I have a feeling Warriors fans will soon agree. Johnson can now focus completely on his game instead of overplaying his hand as Green will do the small things extremely well.
There are few more consistent players than the former Sea Eagle and although a lot of what he does goes largely unnoticed I guarantee you Manly fans will miss him now that he has gone. Good pick up.
Change of the guard: The Warriors big forward pack were whacked around the park far too often this season. Tohu Harris, Leivaha Pulu, Agnatius Paasi and Adam Blair have been brought in to address this, but the fact the side felt the need to recruit four forwards says it all.
Thompson, Matulino, Lillyman, Gubb and Hoffman have departed the club meaning a fresh looking forward pack will hopefully allow much more space for the likes of Johnson, Green and RTS moving forward.
Throw in Gerrard Beale and Peta Hiku and the side looks remarkably different in 2018. Given the way they ended their 2017 season, that can only be a positive.
Attacking weapons added: The Warriors already have the likes of RTS, Kata and Fusitua at their disposal but in Gerrard Beale and Peter Hiku they have rounded out an impressive all-New Zealand representative back line.
Beale’s injury is extremely unfortunate but he will be back in the early season. Hiku is criminally underrated and is a huge get. Fusitua had an amazing world cup for Tonga. Surely the Kiwis wish he had nominated for them instead after representing them twice previously. Kata has unlimited potential.
They should score plenty of points moving forward.
– Full support of coach: Why anyone would take up the Warriors coaching gig is beyond me such is the constant pressure, but in Stephen Kearney, it looks like the board, players and fans have finally found someone they will back in 100%.
It was never going to be a quick fix but Kearney has the runs on the board and has attracted some big-name signings. Tohu Harris is a huge pickup. There is no chance he would have made the switch from an extremely settled and successful Melbourne set up if he didn’t have total belief in the club and its coach. Johnson also re-signed without any reports linking him away from the club.
That shows belief. I don’t believe any Warriors coach has had that kind of support since Cleary’s Grand Final run.
Season Grading: F
A side this talented really shouldn’t miss the finals. Boasting the entire first-choice New Zealand spine (at the time) big things were expected. I fully expected them to play finals footy. Instead, I literally had to google their last win. For those playing at home, it was Round 16 back in JUNE!
To end a season with nine straight losses is absolutely shocking for the fans and players alike. Worst still, in only one of those games (a golden point loss in round 25 to Manly) were the Warriors really ever in a position to win.
Johnson’s injury really hurt the side and saw them drop completely off the final’s radar. He and Foran just didn’t play enough games together to strike up a combination that could propel them back to mid-September football.
RTS reminded us again why he is one of the game’s best number ones and should be absolutely firing come round one 2018. With Blake Green signing on, he should see more opportunities.