New Zealand Warriors: End of Season Review

2017 will go in the books as another year of missed opportunities for a star-studded Kiwi outfit, but just where did the wheels fall off for the Warriors?

The Details

Ladder position: 13th

Points for: 444

Points against: 575

Top Try Scorer: David Fusitua (12 tries)

Home Record: 6 wins, 6 losses

Away Record: 1 win, 11 losses

Highlight of the season

For a season that started with so much promise, there are very few clear highlights to look back on at the end of it.

People took notice with New Zealand internationals Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson and Isaac Luke making up a strong spine but the season turned out to be a disappointment.

Shock wins over the Eels and Broncos, two teams which would finish in the top four come the end of the season, must rank as some of the rare highlights, alongside a win over the Roosters in round nine.

One big highlight for the club was the classy way they dealt with the cutting of stalwart Manu Vatuvei and his departure mid-season to play in the European Super League. Renaming the stadium in his honour and having him lead the players out showed a touch of class and emotion in a masculine and aggressive environment.

Lowlight of the season

Take your pick, there’s plenty to choose from.

The best illustration of their ineptitude and frailty was the fact they finished the season with a nine game losing streak. Early in that run, the Warriors lost star half-back Johnson to injury with Kieran Foran also becoming unavailable before the end of the year. Even so, that winless run included a game against Newcastle and fellow cellar-dwellers Wests Tigers, who leapfrogged them at the death with a win over the Kiwis on the last day of the year.

When Johnson went down while playing the Panthers, the Warriors were in the lead and stuck right in the middle of a competitive game. The minute he was carted off, they fell apart and never managed to recover.

What went Right 

Erm, I’ll get back to you…

The form of winger David Fusitua, who bagged 12 tries to lead the way for the club during the season, was strong. A few decent younger guys got plenty of game time and experience but beyond that, it’s slim pickings.

What went Wrong 

Having to use 30 players through a season is never a good sign and the Warriors certainly had their fair share of bad luck with injuries. But questions must be asked about Stephen Kearney’s ability to turn things around for the Kiwi club.

Kearney has had plenty of experience in some great set-ups around the league, spending time with some of the game’s better coaches, but it would appear that he hasn’t managed to pick up much along the way.

It’s impossible to escape the feeling that the Warriors are the club where talented players go to earn fistfuls of cash and see out their days in relative comfort, with minimal effort and no real consequences.

You can throw in the fact that Kearney had to hook star Isaac Luke for some absolute dire efforts late in the season as an added insult to the fans.

Stand out player

This one is easy. Fusitua deserves plenty of plaudits for the way he’s carried himself, found consistency and managed to find the try-line. Some of his teammates looked more likely to slide into a lounge chair out in that all-too-rare Auckland sun than give him any help.

Best rookie

Can I give it to Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad for his name only?

On a serious note, Nicoll-Klokstad was a handy back line option for the Warriors during his seven NRL appearances this season and he could become a solid footballer at the top level.

There were a few younger guys, like Bunty Afoa, Jazz Tevaga and Ata Hingano who put in their fair share of strong performances, leaving some hope for the future.

Recruitment for 2018

2018 Gains: Manaia Cherrington (Cronulla Sharks), Tohu Harris (Melbourne Storm), Leivaha Pulu (Gold Coast Titans), Zac Santo (Canberra Raiders)

2018 Losses: Erin Clark (Canberra Raiders), Bureta Faraimo (Hull FC), Kieran Foran (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Charlie Gubb (Canberra Raiders), Tuimoala Lolohea (Wests Tigers), Ben Matulino (Wests Tigers), Toafofoa Sipley (Manly Sea Eagles), Manu Vatuvei (Salford Red Devils)

There’s plenty of room to move with the Warriors squad for next season with high-profile players like Foran, Ben Matulino and Tui Lolohea moving elsewhere while Manaia Cherrington represents an interesting prospect after joining from the Sharks.

Tohu Harris should bring some of that famous Melbourne Storm professionalism while Leivaha Pulu is also a strong addition.

There is not too much concern over a talent drain or loss of key impact players, with even the better players struggling to perform over the 2017 season.

Where next?

It’s the same thing every year at the Warriors right?

Pre-season expectations build up then the new signings look good and gel quickly with the roster. They win a few and lose a few early, before injuries and a lack of involvement from the star names bites them hard and they finish somewhere between 10th and 14th.

That looks like it might be the case once again for 2018, especially if Kearney is still in the coach’s box by the time the season kicks off.

What are your thoughts on the New Zealand Warriors’ 2017 season? Let us know in the comments below.

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