Can the Warriors end an 11-match losing streak? Justis Kamu looks at where the Warriors are going wrong along with the six key issues in the NRL.
1. JC did it, will the Warriors?
The Easter Monday public holiday signifies the day when Jesus Christ rose from the dead three days after being crucified on the cross. Similarly it will present the Warriors with a prime opportunity to perform their own revival against the North Queensland Cowboys in a season that has so far been winless. Their latest performance against the Cronulla Sharks was a demoralising 28-4 loss with the side still to score points this season in the first stanza. Dropped balls, mistimed passes, loose carries and ball-watching on defence made for a woeful effort from the Warriors.
There has been a raft of personnel changes at the club in the coaching and playing staff yet it's difficult to identify what modifications Matthew Elliott has implemented into the the game plan. The resolute defence that supposedly was being prepared in the off-season has yet to materialise. In attack their fourth and fifth tackle plays leaves much to be desired. There is plenty of lateral movement but lack of variation in their sets make it easy pickings for the opposition to shut down.
Todd Lowrie has been the only new addition to prove his money's worth. As for Thomas Leuluai and Dane Nielson they have been uninspiring in the first month of the competition. Both are up to the task defensively, however Nielson isn't a line breaker and hasn't created much opportunities when given the ball. Leuluai isn't offering much apart from an educated boot and a crisp pass. He needs to take the ball to the line more often to keep teams on high alert that he is a threat. If he is there for his leadership he needs to get out of the back seat and steer the side from the halves.
Sitting at the foot of the competition ladder there isn't much evidence to suggest that this bumbling outfit will be a serious threat to Jonathan Thurston and the Cowboys. The club is now on an 11 game losing streak. If Monday is a day of miracles, it may well require divine intervention for the club to finally claim a victory. For Warriors fans it truly is becoming a matter of faith.
2. Injury toll not helping Warriors
If there is a defence that can be made for the new Warriors coaching staff it is the side have had a big injury toll so early in 2013. The casualty list of the fallen includes the Lousi brothers, Sam (foot) and Sione (knee), Jerome Ropati (knee), Russell Packer (bicep), Nathan Friend (shoulder), Charlie Gubb (jaw), Manu Vatuvei (ankle), Steve Rapira (ear), Harry Siejka (concussion), Carlos Tuimavave (hand), Dominique Peyroux (jaw) and Alehana Mara (ankle).
It would be a stretch to suggest that the inclusion of these injured players in the match day squad would've overturned the losses. However it should be acknowledged that without having the luxury of a fully fit squad at their disposal the problems are compounded by this growing deficit. This has resulted in the coaching staff being largely constrained to selecting relatively the same weekly lineup. Friend, Packer, Ropati and Vatuvei would be the first-choice players from that list.
Their return would be good news for the franchise, though it could mean the opposite for coaches Matthew Elliott, Rick Henry and Andrew McFadden. That's when the clock will start ticking for the trio to quickly transform their team into a side that can string wins together.
3. Common sense prevails in kicking incident
Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater being placed on report for foul play against Bulldogs prop David Klemmer was outrageous. Slater went up to catch the bomb and caught the face of the prop with his boot as he came to ground. The Bulldogs were initially going to be penalised for touching the fullback in the air but that was overturned on advice of the video referee who deemed Slater's action was a 'prior act of foul'.
The Storm held on for a 22-18 win in a match they dominated but that incident gave the Doggies a sniff of the tryline and they capitalised with Kiwi Sam Perrett going over for a try in the following set.
Is it dangerous play? It's hard to think of what Slater was supposed to do in the situation when his eyes were fixed on the ball. It was clearly unintentional and Slater's kick-out style catch is his own personal approach to defusing a high-ball. Had Slater been charged and found guilty he would've faced a suspension after carrying over points for an incident in the round two against the North Queensland Cowboys. Thankfully common sense prevailed with the match review panel not laying a charge against him.
4. Broncos battling for Brisbane
The mighty Brisbane Broncos are the competition's most successful side with six premierships in their trophy cabinet. Yet it appears the lack of silverware in recent times and their inability to conjure up the creativeness and flair that was synonymous with the club in the 90's-00's is affecting their ability to draw crowds in the league town.
For the first time in Broncos history, they slipped below the Queensland Reds (34,200 compared to 33,300) in average home crowds last season. With the Reds now based at Suncorp Stadium it's been a slow and successful climb for the union team to push above the Broncos. The Reds are capitalising on their 2011 success and can bank on the talents of Quade Cooper, Will Genia and Digby Ioane who are stars in the capital of Queensland.
On the other hand the Broncos haven't won a title in six years and are no longer one of Australia's most popular and most watched football teams. The Brisbane Lions (AFL) are pulling in an average of 20,500 fans at the Gabba due to the improvement in their play. With the Broncos currently in 10th, the club is at a crucial point in its 25 year history. They need to win games, play attractive footy and produce future superstars of the game if they are to get back to being the pinnacle club in the NRL and their city.
5. Your comments
"Some one in the front row needs to put their hand up. There was a serious lack of grunt in the front row. Also Konrad needs to be pushed to the wing. We all know how dangerous is can be. But centre is not his position. He is a player built like Tuiaki. He will be able to use the sideline on defense."
Jacob Lillyman has been the top of the props after three games in 2013. Ben Matulino has been solid but still has to lift a couple of notches if he is to be on par with Lillyman who's coming off the interchange. It was unfortunate that Steve Rapira played just four minutes of the game when they really needed a full compliment of forwards on a hot afternoon. Tuiaki and Hurrell make for an interesting comparison. Hurrell struggles on defence but it's his attacking ability which has him on the team sheet every week. A move to the wing could be a better option for him where his speed and ball carrying can be employed when bringing the out of the backfield or in close to the tryline. On the flipside for defensive purposes he would need to work on catching kicks, his turn around speed and decision making.
"Going into the season without a goal kicker was near suicidal. Locke is a better goal kicker but apparently still has issues with his torn hamstring. Also, I believe he's overrated as an NRL fullback.He must be in the bottom 5 fullbacks in the comp as far as his workrate and impact on matches. Dugan is a decent fullback, albeit soft, and he can kick goals, play 5/8 and fullback. And the Warriors aren't interested?"
Locke did kick in the Holden Cup but wasn't up to scratch as a first choice in the NRL. Back in 2009 he had a short spell as a kicker in first grade but was only kicking at 65%. He is said to still be practising as a back-up but at this stage Shaun Johnson will take the responsibility for 2013. At $650,000 per season Josh Dugan would likely be the Warriors top paid player but that's not money the club would be willing to pay. If it was Billy Slater - a champion player who is the best in the world than the Warriors would give serious consideration such a transfer. Paying that sort of money for a Dugan, a player with potential, isn't the approach the club usually take.
From Uilam Osa
"If you think that the Raiders would suffer without Dugan then you probably weren't watching them last year. As Reece Robinson not only put some serious heat from the back, but when Dugan returned they had to seriously consider moving Dugan to 6 (fulltime) because of Robinson's form."
- You're right Robinson did play well in Dugan's absence last season. On the weekend he was arguably their best in the Raiders first win of the year. Dugan is rated the better fullback but Robinson can lift his status now that he will have a regular gig in that spot. With a near-full season to go he has plenty of work to do if he is to establish himself as not just a temporary solution.
6. Team of the Week - round 3
1. Fullback - Reece Robinson (Raiders)
2. Wing - Nathan Merrit (Rabbitohs)
3. Centre - Jarrod Croker (Raiders)
4. Centre - Chris Lawrence (Tigers)
5. Wing - Akuila Uate (Knights)
6. Five-eighth - John Sutton (Rabbitohs)
7. Halfback - Tyrone Roberts (Knights)
8. Prop - Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Roosters)
9. Hooker - Jake Friend (Roosters)
10. Prop - Nate Myles (Titans)
11. Second row - Adam Cuthbertson (Knights)
12. Second row - Sonny Bill Williams (Roosters)
13. Lock - Shaun Fensom (Raiders)