Richie Barnett on league

Opinion and analysis from former Kiwis captain Richie Barnett

Richie Barnett: Defending the line and using the ball will be key

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Russell Packer of the Warriors charges forward during the round seven NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Photo / Getty Images
Russell Packer of the Warriors charges forward during the round seven NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Photo / Getty Images

Warriors will have to improve their defensive game as impressive Broncos ride into town.

Most games are won up front, but I don't think it will necessarily be that way when the Warriors play the Broncos tomorrow night.

To me, the most decisive factors will be who defends their line the best and who makes best use of the ball.

Let's face it, the Warriors' defence has been terrible at times this season and it will need to be a whole lot better against one of the best attacking teams in the competition.

These two teams always seem to bring out the best in each other. The worrying thing for the Warriors is that the Broncos haven't yet pulled together a full 80-minute performance, and yet they have been winning - and winning well.

Under Anthony Griffin they have a staggering 77 per cent success rate.

Some people have said Griffin inherited a good side. That may be true but you've still got to get that side to perform and Griffin has been doing that. To me, his biggest strength is that he clearly knows how to construct a winning culture. He also coached a lot of those young Broncos stars in the club's under-20s team so he knows them inside and out.

The Broncos' back row trio of Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday and Alex Glenn is the best in the business. Parker and Thaiday are terrific players, while Glenn is also developing into one of the most consistent players in the game. He had a fine game for the Kiwis in the Anzac test and then backed it up with two tries for the Broncos against the Titans. With Matt Gillett and Ben Te'o coming off the bench, the Broncos have the most powerful and aggressive unit going around. It's a major reason why they are the second-best defensive team in the competition.

Their yardage game is also huge. So far they've been running for over 1400m a game, which is second behind the Sharks. That's been a huge bonus for the halves as they look to put the Darren Lockyer era behind them.

Corey Norman has taken a while to find his feet in the NRL but he has looked good this season. Part of the reason for that is that Peter Wallace has been so dominant it has allowed Norman to just play his natural game and he has looked a lot more comfortable as a result.

The Warriors have shown some positive signs in their last two matches but they face a serious test of their cohesion and rhythm tomorrow night.

Jacob Lillyman's return is a huge bonus. He'll add some serious leadership and experience.

Having been out for so long, he'll probably only play in 10 to 15-minute bursts but if he can get through injury-free it will provide the team with a major confidence boost.

I'm hoping the fans will really get out and support the Warriors.

They've been pretty good at sticking with the team so far this season, and with the Broncos coming to town it's a great chance to see one of the best teams and some of the best players in the competition. It should be one hell of a match.

- NZ Herald

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