Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

League: Easy does it for new Warriors coach

Vodafone New Zealand Warriors coach Brian McClennan. Photo / Natalie Slade
Vodafone New Zealand Warriors coach Brian McClennan. Photo / Natalie Slade

Coaches always relish the first official day of the new season. It's their chance to set the tone and impose their ideas and Brian McClennan is no different but he says he won't be making too many changes at the Warriors.

Ivan Cleary's successor formally addressed his new players for the first time today. While seven of the Kiwis from the recent Four Nations tournament in the United Kingdom were missing, the other 23 first graders were present for the meet and greet, outfitting and preliminary strength sessions in the gym.

While McClennan will be hoping the brown Mt Smart Stadium pitch changes to a greener hue come kick-off in 2012, he said all other changes will be minimal at a club which made the grand finals this year.

"There will be slight alterations, which is a normal thing to do in the evolution of a footy team anyway," McClennan said. "It's pretty much straight ahead and keep searching for little bits that we can do, so no massive changes or anything."

McClennan, a former Kiwis' coach who led the Leeds Rhinos to two Super League titles in 2008 and 2009, is confident he can hit the ground running at the Warriors.

"I've done this before. It's all normal. Working closely with [chief executive] Wayne [Scurrah], we feel like we've ticked a few boxes as far as what we think can help benefit the club structurally," he said. "I feel like we're making really good progress off the field and that's really important. The best pre-season we can give the players, the better chance we have of putting some good performances on the field next year.

"I'm very confident that I can work in with all the staff and players and put a real good programme together and progress as a team and that's the main thing. We just have to keep trying to work every day to improve and if we can get to the end of next year and everyone can turn around and say 'I think I'm a better player' and everyone as a group can say 'I think we're a better team' then I'll know I've done a good job."

McClennan's squad features several new faces, including former Gold Coast hooker Nathan Friend. Junior Warriors' second rower Samiuela Lousi, captain Ben Henry, centre Konrad Hurrell and loose forward Sebastine Ikahihifo make the step up to first grade after turning 20 this year while standoff Carlos Tuimavave and utility Sio Siua Taukeiaho are also in the top squad.

McClennan's first chance to see his new side in action is a trial match against the Titans at North Harbour Stadium on February 4. The Warriors also play trial matches against South Sydney at Coffs Harbour on February 11 and Queensland Cup side the Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles in Whangarei on February 18.

The season proper starts with a grand final rematch against the Manly Sea Eagles at Eden Park on the weekend of March 3-4.

- APNZ

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