Richie Barnett on league
Opinion and analysis from former Kiwis captain Richie Barnett

Richie Barnett: Possible return of Flanagan will give Cronulla big boost

Shane Flanagan. Photo / Getty Images
Shane Flanagan. Photo / Getty Images

The Warriors might have hoped Cronulla could be a little vulnerable on Sunday, given the emotional drain of the past month with the drugs investigation across the Tasman, but all of that will go out the window if Shane Flanagan is back on deck.

The Sharks have had an extremely difficult time recently and they have also endured two brutal matches to kick off their campaign. But the possible return of Flanagan into the coach's box will give the Cronulla players a huge boost and make the Warriors' task of snapping a record 10-game losing streak that much more difficult.

Flanagan has done a fantastic job at the Sharks over the past couple of seasons and his players clearly respect him. He also seems to be able to get the best out of them.

If that wasn't bad enough, Todd Carney also seems to save his best for the Warriors and the playmaker is already close to top form.

The same can't be said for the Warriors. Fans couldn't fault the players' effort and application last weekend against the Roosters but they still haven't found any fluency.

They haven't built pressure and three dropped balls on the second tackle can be the difference between winning and losing.

I would like to see the Warriors adopt the attacking mindset they showed in the second half against the Roosters from the start of every game. When they are forced to play catch-up football, it means everyone is on the front foot and they ask questions of opposition defences.

It's what Melbourne and Manly do so well. Both teams are usually excellent at the start of each season because they know they will lose players when State of Origin rolls around and they lift their game by 20 per cent. It's an attitude the Warriors should adopt because they can't afford to be left chasing their tails so early in the season.

I struggled to understand why they were so far off the pace in their season opener against the Eels, because you would have thought they would open a campaign with gusto. The effort they showed against the Roosters is what they need every week.

Halfback Shaun Johnson showed signs he's starting to understand his role in the side and was a lot better last weekend than he was against Parramatta.

His combination with five-eighth Thomas Leuluai is still a little way off, however, and execution is not quite there. They are still trying to produce the right plays at the right time and their fluency from set pieces needs work. Leuluai will improve as he comes to grips with the style in the NRL after playing in the UK.

It doesn't help that a back-rower is filling in at hooker and the side should gel a lot better when Nathan Friend returns from injury. Elijah Taylor has done a good job and is a solid defender and Pita Godinet ignites the attack when he comes on but Friend is a proven rake and that combination among No 6, 7 and 9 is crucial.

I went into the season with high expectations of the Warriors and I still think they are capable of decent performances every week.

- NZ Herald

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