NRL: Winter of content wanted

By Robert Lowe

Elliott will wait until the hard slog of mid-season before predicting prospects of Warriors.

Warriors coach Matthew Elliott points to winter as being the benchmark for his charges. Photo / Getty Images
Warriors coach Matthew Elliott points to winter as being the benchmark for his charges. Photo / Getty Images

New coach Matthew Elliott is holding off predicting how well the Warriors will bounce back from a forgettable 2012 season in which they went from 2011 NRL grand finalists to third last.

For Elliott, the answer will come when the competition reaches the hard slog of winter. For now, it's all about setting and meeting standards.

"Once we get to July, that's when our aptitude and attitude will be tested," said Elliott.

The 2011 grand final season showed the Warriors have a talented squad that can make a real mark in finals footy but the experienced Elliott is aware that mindset is the key if they are to earn that right again.

"We're not a chance of doing that unless our application is there," he said. "We're going to set standards. That's our mentality."

Elliott's appointment - along with a new staff - means the Warriors start with a fresh man at the helm for the second year in a row.

After Ivan Cleary left for Penrith in the wake of the 2011 grand final, former Kiwis and Leeds coach Brian McClennan was a popular choice and made a promising start, but then had results spiral downward from mid-July. By late August, he was gone.

Assistant Tony Iro was made caretaker coach for the final fortnight but the losing streak mounted to a club-record eight matches as the Warriors finished third from bottom.

Elliott has a squad augmented by the recruitment of two of Melbourne's premiership winners, centre Dane Nielsen and lock Todd Lowrie.

Another arrival is Kiwis halfback/hooker Thomas Leuluai, who is returning from English Super League giants Wigan to the club where he made his NRL debut 10 years ago as a 17-year-old.

But the player losses are at least as significant.

With influential five-eighth James Maloney gone to the Sydney Roosters, there is a crucial selection decision to be made over the halves pairing, although the mercurial Shaun Johnson is bound to feature.

After his spectacular entry into the NRL in 2011, Johnson's form dipped during the course of last year along with the Warriors' struggles and he suffered the ignominy of being dropped for the final match against Canberra. But he should be primed to rebound.

Elliott has already had one injury setback, losing workaholic hooker Nathan Friend for the start of the season because of shoulder surgery.

He has several options to take over the dummy-half role, including Friend's back-up last season, Alehana Mara, and the choice he makes will be among the points of interest heading into the round-one trip to Parramatta on March 9.

Meanwhile, Elliott is keeping close to his chest the style of play the fans can expect from the Warriors this year.

He says he'd like to think it will be a combination of being able to grind it up the middle and the razzle-dazzle that the club is known for.

Whatever it turns out to be, it will be built around what he sees as the strengths of his squad.


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