warriors season preview

NRL expert Steve Green has put together his mammoth season preview for 2021. We’re running through every club, from his predicted wooden spooners to those he thinks will take out he premiership. Today it’s the Warriors season preview.

2020 recap

In what was a crazy year for the NZ club, the Warriors won over a ton of new fans with their efforts playing away from their families for nearly the entire season. While the sacking of Kearney was a low point, their resurgence under interim Coach Payten was something to behold.

However, the rollercoaster continued for Warriors fans when Todd Payten confirmed he would not take up the offer to stay on as permanent head coach in 2021 due his move to the Cowboys. Discarded Dragons and Knights coach Nathan Brown took the reins.

Nathan Brown has a reputation for rebuilding clubs, but at the NRL level, his winning record is not great. So, although 2020 was a season that had fairy tale elements to it, there is some doubt over whether the Warriors can carry this forward into 2021.

Warriors season preview: Losses

I am not including the many players the Warriors took on loan in 2020. But even without counting these guys, the Warriors lost some serious experience in the form of Gerard Beale, Adam Blair, Lachlan Burr, Blake Green, Patrick Herbert, Adam Keighran, Agnatius Paasi, Isaiah Papali’I and Nathaniel Roache.

The only ones that I think they should have held onto out of those guys, are Herbert, Roache and Burr. They’re all young enough to develop into very good first graders. The rest were either past their best or needed a change of scenery to bring out their best.

Warriors season preview: Gains

The Warriors went on a spending spree over the off-season, luring in a host of regular first graders and a star from the Super League. Euan Aitken and Marcelo Montoya will add some much needed backline depth, while Sullivan is a decent back up half. But it’s their front row that has really been bolstered. The signings of Kane Evans, Addin Fonua-Blake and Ben Murdoch-Masila has added a heap of size. The mobile Bailey Sironen is also a very handy pick-up after a very strong 2020 at Souths.

Warriors season preview: Rookie radar

18-year-old fullback Rocco Berry is a rugby union prodigy that could almost evolve into the replacement for Tuivasa-Sheck in 2022. Berry is the son of former All Black Marty. At over 190cm tall and nearly 100 kilos, he looks set to be given some NRL game time off the bench in 2021. He’s probably a year off really making his mark. In the meantime, Paul Turner has to get some game time in 2021. He may get a start if Nikorima struggles with form or gets moved to hooker.

Warriors season preview: Players to watch

Eliesa Katoa exploded onto the scene last year. At times he was unstoppable close to the line on the fringe of the ruck. With another pre-season and some great offloading forwards to work with, the sky is the limit for Katoa. Along with Tevega and Tahu, I think they will be a very formidable back row for the Warriors in 2021.

David Fusitua had a very disappointing 2020 season before eventually returning home to be with his pregnant wife. Obviously being away from his wife at her time of need was too much to cope with and his form took a big hit. If the Warriors are going to make the finals in 2021, they need the Fus to return to his try-scoring best. With Maumalo, they were one of the best wing combinations in the competition in 2019. Nathan Brown will need him to be at his best in 2021.

Chanel Harris-Tavita may not attract as much attention as RTS or the new big signing of Fonua-Blake. But he’s extremely important to this team and someone I rate very highly. He’s so much tougher than people give him credit for. He’s also starting to realise when to use his flair and when to take the high percentage option. He and Nikorima formed a great combination in 2020 and I think he will build on this and have a breakout year. He’ll likely earn himself a NZ halfback jersey.

Warriors season preview: Weaknesses

The Warriors lack depth and that’s the only reason I do not have them in my Top 8. Their starting 13 is great, but out wide they don’t have many back-up options. They’re also short on number 9s. I’m also not convinced on Coach Brown’s NRL record. I think that the Warriors defence could fall away in 2021 after looking great under Payten at the end of 2020.

Warriors season preview: Strengths

They have an enormous forward pack, with Ah Mau, Evans, Murdoch-Masila, Fonua-Blake and Taunua-Brown all capable of causing havoc up the middle. RTS is still one of the top 10 players in the game. Their wingers, if they can recapture their best form, are two of the best finishers in the competition. They will be a hard team to beat in 2021 when they play well.

Warriors season preview: Ladder prediction

13th

NRL season previews

Manly
Dragons
Bulldogs
Broncos
Knights

Storm
Souths
Sharks
Eels

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