New Zealand Warriors 2021 Season Preview
TK's take on the New Zealand Warriors:
Depth of Squad - Across the park the Warriors look deeper with some great new additions including Addin Fonua-Blake, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Euan Aitken, Kane Evans and Bayley Sironen adding some class and experience to the roster. Just a note on Murdoch-Masila, I spoke to his former team mate at Warrington Blake Austin who told me Murdoch-Masila is an edge back rower not a middle and they were paired on the same edge at the Wolves. He sat out a large chunk of 2020 with injury but from my observations of his games in 2019 he works in a similar capacity to Kikau from Penrith, the run great lines, break tackles and have an explosive game, it wouldn't surprise to his him start off the bench and come into the game around the 25-30 minute mark.
Young players coming through the system - The adversity and experience of season 2020 unearthed some great potential particularly in the likes of Adam Pompey, Paul Turner, Jack Murchie, Josh Curren, Eliesa Katoa and Jamayne Taunoa-Brown with all pushing for significant roles and minutes.
WEAKNESSES Spine - While Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is one of the best players in the world he needs help if the Warriors want to be considered as contenders. The lack of a proven world class playmaker in the halves and hooker is the major concern when you look at their player chart. All the great teams have quality in this area, the Storm had Cam Smith, Papenhuyzen, Munster and Hughes, the Roosters winning the year before that had Cronk, Keary, Friend and Tedesco. Chanel Tavita-Harris and Kodi Nikorima both showed flashes of brilliance in the back end of the season but there's no doubt the club misses a seasoned superstar in the spine to take the club into a deep finals run.
OPPORTUNITIES Hooker - A devastating achilles injury to Karl Lawton has left the Warriors thin in the hooker department. He and Wade Egan were neck and neck for a starting role which should see Egan land the role. A left field option could be to move Jazz Tevega back into the 9 a role he has played in previous season and could also solve the headache of fitting everyone into the back row.
Halves - The departure of veteran Blake Green opens an opportunity for Chanel Harris-Tavita to become the chief playmaker for the Warriors. Waiting in the wings is the flashy Paul Turner who had a great debut against the Bulldogs in 2020.
VERDICT - Will push for the finals and can see a 7th or 8th place finish. To consider they finished 10th in 2020 without playing a single home game in Auckland and having to move their lives to Terrigal for an entire season. A new coach in Nathan Brown brings a fresh attitude to the club and some astute acquisitions in Fonua-Blake and Murdoch-Masila really adds some elite calibre players to the squad. If they can play a majority of home games back on home soil, I see a nice run back into the finals.
For fantasy league coaches the biggest question is the makeup of the forward pack and who commands what minutes in the team. Will we see the same approach towards Tohu Harris of starting on an edge then drifting into a middle role. Also the arrival of Bayley Sironen what does that mean for the likes of Katoa and Murchie. Another question is who partners Fonua-Blake upfront, Kane Evans is looking for a start but the Warriors also have returning from injury the likes of Leeson Ah Mau and Bunty Afoa in added selection headaches for coach Brown.
How do you see the Warriors going in 2021?