Damage is the Warriors middle name

Damage, damage, damage. Its all the Warriors seem to know. But in this case the chaos that constantly involves NZ's only professional NRL club is a good thing.


Picture credit: Gerard Barrau

The title of this piece is literally a representation of who the New Zealand Warriors are as a professional Rugby League club. They’ll either be being damaged (cough, cough, Bulldogs last round), or doing the damaging themselves (2/2 against the Top Four Dragons this campaign).

However, here I’m going to be focusing purely on the ‘when they do the damage’ bit. And exactly how they could do so in this upcoming finals series that is only a couple of games away from starting. Despite currently occupying the last spot within a finals berth (8th position), the Warriors have a very strong all New Zealand core of RTS, Shaun Johnson, Isaac Luke and Adam Blair. Combined with this, they have a passionate Paraparaumu born coach in the form of Stephen Kearney. And finally, when it all comes together they are scarily electric and get the results they so desperately want. Writing of the New Zealander’s now, could see you look like an idiot in the future.

RTS, Johnson, Luke & Blair

These four players on their day are just as good as any other in the competition. And each has their own superb qualities that have displayed that idea this season.

Tuivasa-Sheck is currently second in the league in run metres per game with a crazy average of 187.9. While 25-capped game Kiwi Johnson is in the top ten in the NRL for try assists with 12. As for former Premiership winner Luke, from only 19 appearances this season he has seven combined tries/try assists to go along with a tackle success of 89% (591/662). And finally, for NRL journeyman Blair, he’s getting away 1.5 offloads per match and an insane 30 tackles per game, while the big man also has a nice two try assists next to his name.

Put it this way, when the New Zealanders win, they’re victorious because these four have put in a good shift. For example, in the Warriors latest win, two games ago and 20-4 vs Newcastle, RTS made 338 meters!!! What can you even say about that? As for Johnson in addition to converting all three of his sides tries in the 16 point win, he also made 23 tackles and he’s a half. Luke made just under 100 meters, along with 28 tackles. That while Blair among other statistics made 33 tackles and had one line-break. 

If all of that wasn’t enough to convince you that when these four play well, that they are absolutely capable of causing damage to even the biggest of teams, then hopefully this adds to what has already been said.  RTS has more try assists this campaign (seven) than the likes of Austin, Cook and Cronk. Johnson (four) has more tries than other halves such as James Maloney, Benji Marshall and Ash Taylor. While what both Luke & Blair produce in the frontline, not nearly enough can be said about. Neither player is ever afraid to cop a suspension for their side if they feel it necessary while they always put their bodies on the line against the opposition. While stats wise, Luke’s 75m per game and Blair’s 61m per game, aren’t too shabby either.

Stephen Kearney; the Big Boss

Club wise, his coaching career has been very, very shaky indeed. At Parramatta, he had a winning percentage of just 24%. And as it stands at the Warriors, it is only 43%. However, New Zealand finished a disappointing 13th last season and now he has them ready to make some noise in the finals. So credit is due where credit is due. While Kearney also coached the Kiwis to a World Cup victory on the opposition soil in 2008, a massive highlight from his coaching career so far.

While as a player he represented five clubs in total for just under 300 matches and scored 42 tries. He also played a massive 45 games for the Kiwis. He’s a proud New Zealander and someone who’s never given up no matter what the odds were. 

His stint in Western Sydney couldn’t have gone any more horribly even if he’d tried. Yet he still persisted in coaching after that. While quite frankly his first season at the Warriors was pretty crap as well. However, he’s never been deterred by that sort of thing and will be coaching a side in the finals this season. While among the other major ups from his time so far as a coach was leading the Kiwis to a Four Nations title in 2010.

What all of this is trying to say is that given the Warriors precarious position in the Top Eight, no matter what side they face their 100% guaranteed to start as the underdogs. But this is where Kearney’s guidance/leadership and experience can really help his side out. He’s been through it all as both a manager and player. He’ll have the Warriors best as prepared as possible and ready to fight whatever monster lays ahead of them.

Results, results, results

So far this season the Warriors have won 13 games. Not a bad shout from the side that won only seven all of last season, while this year’s team still has two more to play. While the 2011 Grand Final New Zealand side won 14 games during their regular season. A good omen for the Warriors, possibly? 

Some of the Warriors results have been really strong this campaign. They opened their season with a 12 point win over the Rabbitohs. While as previously mentioned they are 2/2 against St George this campaign. While they’ve had a 24 point win over the Roosters, to go along with a 20 point victory over Brisbane. Not to mention they’ve made light work of some of the competitions lower sides including the Gold Coast twice and Manly.

While this season they have also pushed some of the NRL’s other heavyweights all the way including a six-point defeat to Melbourne and a three-point loss to the Sharkies. So despite their relative inconsistencies this campaign, the Warriors have proven they’re capable of fighting in the same club as the big boys.

So say all you want about the New Zealand-based club. Say they’re not good enough, or strong enough, or capable enough. But you’d be very stupid to write them off as a club who could cause a few upsets in the finals and very legibly fight for the Premiership. Because despite suffering some crazy losses this season, we all know what they’re capable of on their day. And that’s just straight facts.

Could the Kiwis be a serious threat come finals footy? Let us know in the comments below.

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Toby Canning

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