Richie Barnett on league

Opinion and analysis from former Kiwis captain Richie Barnett

Richie Barnett: Time for Warriors boys to step up as men

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James Maloney in action. Photo / NZ Herald.
James Maloney in action. Photo / NZ Herald.

If the Warriors are going to do anything this season, the young boys in the team need to step up and become men pretty damn quick.

It's an incredibly young line up at the moment, but there is no room for excuses in the NRL.

It has been pretty obvious all season that there are very few talkers in this team. It's a big part of why the defence has been poor this season.

Yes, players are making bad reads at times, but there is also a lack of communication. Nathan Friend coming back certainly helps in the middle but the talk has to come from the outside too and it doesn't look like there is a lot of that going on.

I know Jerome Ropati made some bad defensive decisions earlier in the season, but he is actually one of the better communicators in the side and an important member of the senior group. So is Manu Vatuvei. With those guys out you wonder where the talk is going to come from.

Bringing Micheal Luck back when he was way off the pace smacked of desperation to me. Luck's leadership and communication can be vital but it was pretty clear he needed to work his way back through the Vulcans after such a long time out.

Simon Mannering has never been a vocal player, so that really leaves James Maloney as the team's voice. Maloney was exceptional last season but he's dropped off just a little. The team desperately need him to get his game back to its very best.

Last week's match against the Cowboys was more of the same from the Warriors. They look great in patches but even teams that have been seriously weakened by Origin and injuries can trouble them. It really doesn't inspire much confidence. The team really need to produce a full 80-minute performance against the Titans tomorrow to create some confidence.

The Titans have been much better this season but they will likely be without key players Ashley Harrison and Luke Bailey and will also be sweating on the availability of their Origin stars Greg Bird and Nate Myles. The Warriors must not only win, but they must also produce a comprehensive display that shows they can be a consistent force and a finals contender.

New coach Brian McClennan came in this season with a focus on improving an attack that had struggled to score points when the team got down into the opposition's 20. Was that a mistake?

When you look at how this season has gone so far, you'd have to say it was. For the past month the focus has been on the defence and there have been signs of improvement.

Sustaining that improvement over the full 80 minutes is the issue now.

Feleti Mateo is the other player who can lead this team forward.

Mateo was just plain incredible last week against the Cowboys. He just carved them up at will. The most impressive thing about Mateo is the way he has been able to change his game to suit what the team needs.

When he's needed to play tight and rumble forward he has, and when he has needed to create things to spark the attack he has done that too.

But Mateo and Maloney can't do it alone. The team need to have leaders and strong voices across the park. That can only come from the younger guys. It's time for the boys to step up.

- NZ Herald

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