NRL: McClennan aiming high

Brian McClennan. Photo / Dean Purcell
Brian McClennan. Photo / Dean Purcell

Brian McClennan is sticking to his bold target of shooting for the NRL premiership in his first year in charge of the Warriors.

Not for McClennan a transitional phase after taking over from now-Penrith coach Ivan Cleary.

Winning the premiership first-up is something he's set his sights on.

"Of course it is," he said.

"We will set sail to get to the top."

But McClennan also knows it won't be easy for the Warriors to take the extra step from being losing grand finalists to snaring a first NRL title at their 18th attempt.

For him, the key is being consistent.

"We want to get to the top, but we understand how difficult the season is and there will be many, many challenges," he said.

"What we're aiming for as a club is consistency - consistency of performance and consistency of seasons.

"If you look at the history of whoever has won a grand final, they've been pretty consistent. They've generally been there a couple of times in succession or they've been thereabouts for a few years."

Last year's grand final was the second time the Warriors had made it to the championship decider and, despite the 24-10 loss to Manly, McClennan said it set a standard.

It also gave the players belief in their ability to be in contention again.

McClennan was the popular choice to succeed Cleary but has a tough act to follow after his predecessor guided the Warriors to the playoffs four times in his six seasons in charge.

However, the Aucklander has a history of instant success.

In his first year at the helm of the Kiwis in 2005, he took them to the Tri-Nations title, whitewashing the Kangaroos 24-0 in the final.

In his first year at Leeds in 2008, the Rhinos won the world club championship and English Super League crown.

While several of last year's Warriors squad have moved on, all but two of the 17 who played in the grand final - utility Lance Hohaia and hooker Aaron Heremaia - are back.

There is plenty to like about the 2012 line-up.

In the backs, there is the speed and elusiveness of Shaun Johnson and Kevin Locke, the ever-present threat of Manu Vatuvei out wide and the organisational skills of James Maloney.

The go-forward is powered by a propping rotation of Sam Rapira, Ben Matulino and Russell Packer, while Feleti Mateo provides the off-loading magic among a group of hardworking back-rowers.

There is only one outside addition to the squad in former Gold Coast hooker Nathan Friend.

Otherwise, the Warriors have chosen to draft in youngsters who've helped the club win the under-20 NYC title for the past two years.

They include Konrad Hurrell, Ben Henry and Carlos Tuimavave, who are being considered as options in the centres.

The position was a problem area for the Warriors last year, with backrowers Simon Mannering, Lewis Brown and Elijah Taylor spending spells there.

As McClennan also knows, having a relatively injury-free squad is also a big factor for success and, on that score, the Warriors will begin the season without a totally clean bill of health.

Both Queensland Origin representative Lillyman (arm) and workaholic lock Micheal Luck (shoulder and wrist) will have late starts, while Kiwi Test centre Jerome Ropati will require time to get back up to speed after returning from a knee reconstruction.

- AAP

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