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September 20, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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Well done Warriors

The New Zealand Warriors’ season came to an abrupt end last weekend, after just the first week of the NRL finals. Hopes were high that the Warriors could have a genuine tilt at the title, following a late-season surge which saw them finish fifth in the regular season. A loss to the fourth-placed Gold Coast Titans meant the Warriors needed two of the teams who finished below them to lose. Unfortunately, narrow wins to both the sixth-placed Sydney Roosters and seventh-placed Canberra Raiders sealed our fate. There are, however, plenty of positives to draw from the Warriors’ season.

Coach Ivan Cleary believes his side has been hardened by a tough season, and will have a chance to reap the rewards next year. The Warriors were forced to play the entire season without inspirational former captain Steve Price, as well as dealing with numerous other key injuries. CEO Wayne Scurrah believes that, on the back of said injury setbacks, simply making the top eight was a fantastic achievement. In addition, Cleary sees the bright side of the injury-ridden season, with the opportunity arising for youngsters to step up, as well as for incumbents to take on extra responsibilities.

The Dally M Wing of the Year-winning performances of Manu “The Beast” Vatuvei—who scored a whopping 19 tries in just 18 games—were crucial in the Warriors’ late season charge. Cleary believes that the recruitments sorted for next year—namely Eels duo Krisnan Inu and Feleti Mateo, and former junior Kiwi Steve Rapira—will ideally complement the likes of Vatuvei. With the loss of veteran Aussie centre Brent Tate to the Cowboys, the Warriors will be hoping this comes to fruition.

With the depature of the two highest-paid Warriors, as well as an increase in the salary cap, Cleary must have enough spare money to further bolster the predominantly youthful side. Having failed to secure Kiwi enforcer Steve Matai’s signature, this will surely go towards filling the big void left by Tate. Succeeding in reinforcing the centres should ensure the Warriors have the makings of a premiership-contending squad, with the youthful forward pack on the rise, and the new halves pairing of James Maloney and Brett Seymour having really clicked. Perhaps the only other area of concern would have been the departure of nifty Scottish hooker Ian Henderson, but said concern has been all but alleviated by the form of the up-and-coming Aaron Heremaia.

I believe next season has the potential to be very successful for the Warriors, even if hit by injuries again. Unfortunately the Kiwis look to have their work cut out for them in the upcoming Tri Nations, with talismanic half Benji Marshall and in-form powerhouse Frank Pritchard in doubt, and the likes of Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran already ruled out. However, you can never rule out the ‘world champion’ Kiwis, and I will be alongside the Mad Butcher, cheering them on all the way!

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