NRL: Warriors looking for 80 minute performance

By Michael Brown

Young Warriors centre Konrad Hurrell. Photo / Getty Images
Young Warriors centre Konrad Hurrell. Photo / Getty Images

Warriors coach Brian McClennan is demanding an 80-minute performance from his side tomorrow night or says they risk being "embarrassed" by Brisbane at Mt Smart Stadium.

The Warriors take on a Broncos side who have lost only one of their eight games this season which is significantly better than the Warriors' record of three wins and five defeats.

They played well for 60 minutes against Melbourne last week and threatened to inflict a first defeat of the season on the Storm but individual errors and sloppy defence saw them lose 32-14. It's been a similar story all season, as the Warriors play well in patches only to fall away and gift the opposition chances.

"It comes down to the individual and the team to work for each other within that 80 minutes," McClennan said. "That's the goal for all of us, I think it is for any team in the competition, but it needs to be for us more than anyone else at the moment because we want to get some traction in the competition and put in a much-improved performance this Saturday night.

"We have to defend our line and get back in the game. We are not doing that well enough. If we don't do that part of the game very well, the Broncos will embarrass us."

The Warriors have leaked 196 so far this season, the second worst in the competition behind the Eels (224). The Broncos, on the other hand, have scored 190 points this term, the second best in the NRL, while conceding only 102 points.

One of the biggest things McClennan is looking for is improved communication to help the defensive lines and the returns from injury of both Jerome Ropati, who will slot in at fullback, and prop Jacob Lillyman should help.

The pair bring 260 games of NRL experience to the side and Lillyman's absence due to a torn bicep suffered pre-season left a hole bigger than his 104kg frame.

"As a rule we are a fairly quiet team," McClennan said. "We are getting better with our communication but Jacob and particularly Micheal Luck really up the ante on that. As with any sport, and anything in life, communication links people together and we have to concentrate really hard on that aspect. I'm really onto the team about that. It's personal responsibility. Even if you are quiet off the field, it doesn't matter, you can be different on it. That's what we need."

Young centre Konrad Hurrell is one of the quiet ones in his first NRL season and he's also an individual who needs to play 80 minutes. The bullocking 20-year-old has played an average of only 45 minutes in his four games to date but that is a luxury for a centre who normally plays the entire 80 minutes.

Hurrell has spent the past month with the Vulcans as he works on his fitness but the former rugby union player who switched to league only last year is also learning to pace himself.

"Training is going well but I would come into game time and couldn't really pace myself," he said. "I would get excited and try to work hard but it doesn't work for the full 80 minutes. When I went to the Vulcans I tried to pace myself and get a full 80 minutes. I think I am getting there.

"In [rugby] union you have a lot of time to rest in the game but in league there's no time. It's so fast. In league I just need to pace my runs."

There are still concerns around the fitness of halfback Shaun Johnson, who suffered a shoulder injury in the Anzac test, which is why McClennan has named an extended bench that includes Pita Godinet. Krisnan Inu is expected to drop out of the match-day squad after his sloppy performance against Melbourne and Ukuma Ta'ai could make way for Lillyman.

Warriors team to play Brisbane at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, on Saturday: Jerome Ropati, Bill Tupou, Ben Henry, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, James Maloney, Shaun Johnson, Russell Packer, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor, Simon Mannering (c), Feleti Mateo. Interchange: Lewis Brown, Ukuma Ta'ai, Sione Lousi, Pita Godinet, Krisnan Inu, Jacob Lillyman.

- APNZ

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