Richie Barnett on league

Opinion and analysis from former Kiwis captain Richie Barnett

Richie Barnett: Warriors have potential to make top four

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Chad Townsend. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Chad Townsend. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The Warriors are a top-eight side and they have the potential to finish in the top four.

I said the same thing last year and many have reminded me of that, but I say it with more confidence this year.

They have acquired good players in Sam Tomkins, Jayson Bukuya and Chad Townsend - all three will be key to their success.

Tomkins pushes himself and makes things happen, which adds huge value to the side. I'm confident he's going to live up to expectations. Townsend is determined to grab his opportunity at the Warriors and that desperation is a huge factor in a player's performance. He's always had a good kicking game, is accurate and swift with his passing and you could see in the way he played in the trial against the Broncos a fortnight ago that he's driven.

Townsend will create considerable competition for places when Thomas Leuluai returns from injury and he has the advantage of a head start.

It's a similar situation with Bukuya in that he wants to make a difference.

It's that sort of attitude which seems to be filtering through the rest of the squad. Everyone seems to be on the same page and that can't be understated because one or two can spoil it for the rest of the team.

This attitude has been set by the leaders, as well as Matt Elliott. The coach highlighted this in his selections for Sunday's game against the Eels, when he left out Konrad Hurrell.

Players can't afford to come back to pre-season training badly out of shape. Hurrell should have known that, especially with his body shape, and he struggled in the early part of last year for similar reasons.

Carlos Tuimavave has the chance to prove doubters wrong. Centre is his position - he never really looked comfortable playing at five-eighth, even though that's the position he's played most often. It's time for him to step up. He has been around a while now and played a fair bit of NSW Cup football. What the Warriors have is a healthy squad - I can't remember them going into the season with so many players available - but also healthy competition for spots.

In fact, there's more competition for places than for some time. I expect big things from Charlie Gubb and David Fusitua this season and they couldn't even make the side to play the Eels.

Parramatta will be a better side in 2014 but will struggle to make the top eight.

The Roosters look powerful and are deserved favourites for the title and will be pushed by the like of Manly and Melbourne. If the Warriors are to make the top four, the Rabbitohs could be the side to dip out because of a lack of depth in the halves and worries about their backline.

Penrith could be the big movers in 2014 and the Sharks and Cowboys will be in contention. It's going to be a good season - and it better be for the Warriors.

- NZ Herald

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