League: Training regime putting 'war' back into Warriors

By Michael Brown

Coaches instilling methodical, ruthless mindset in players ahead of first hit-out of new season

Warriors captain Simon Mannering says it's all hands on deck to get the squad on top of its game. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Warriors captain Simon Mannering says it's all hands on deck to get the squad on top of its game. Photo / Brett Phibbs

In the bowels of the Warriors' training base at Mt Smart Stadium, they have created what they call the War Room.

It's where they do their pre-match and post-match analysis and comes complete with a miniature artificial grass field on which figurines can be shuffled around the pitch using a big stick in the same way generals did during wartime.

It's been said players spend more time in this room than they do on the playing and training field and the War Room is, according to head trainer and quintessential British bulldog Carl Jennings, where they "prepare for battle".

"No, that's just Jenno," coach Matt Elliott counters with a chuckle. "He loves sticks. If that's what floats players' boats, we will go that way.

"We call it the War Room because it describes the mentality we are after. It's not like going to war and being overly aggressive. It's about being methodical, consistent and ruthless."

Those were concepts missing from the Warriors in 2012, when they slumped to a club-record eight-straight defeats. A lot has changed since then, not least the coach and his array of support staff.

Few across the Tasman, however, expect them to make much of an impression this season and Australian bookies and pundits have them missing out on a place in the top eight.

The defending champion Melbourne Storm are expected to go close again, especially as they have managed to hold on to coach Craig Bellamy, who was a Warriors target, and the Bulldogs, Rabbitohs and Cowboys are others tipped to be challenging at the end of the season.

The Bulldogs will have to contend without Dally M medallist Ben Barba, who has been stood down indefinitely by the club and who reportedly checked into a clinic to overcome off-field problems including alcohol and gambling. They still have a very good squad and an astute coach in Des Hasler and will have learned from their grand final loss last season.

The Rabbitohs have a powerful roster with the likes of Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess, Ben Te'o and Issac Luke and believe they finally have a squad capable of breaking a 42-year premiership drought. Their strike power is obvious but they are said to be fitter and more resolute in defence than previous incarnations.

The Cowboys have yet to claim a title since being established in 1995 and have a strong pack with the likes of James Tamou and Matthew Scott and an exciting backline headlined by Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen.

However, all will be overshadowed by one man, Sonny Bill Williams, who is making a return to the NRL after walking out on the Bulldogs five years ago.

He was due to make his Roosters debut last night in the season opener against the Rabbitohs and will descend on Auckland next week to play the Warriors at Eden Park.

The Warriors have a strong squad on paper, but always have a strong squad on paper and it's probably where some of the Warriors played the game last season after their march to the grand final in 2011.

"I think a lot of people [assumed we would go well]," captain Simon Mannering said of his teammates. "I know I certainly didn't because you see it a lot in the NRL - one team will be right up there one year and then the next out the arse end like we were.

"When you have a bad year, it's all hands on deck. What can we do better? It should be the same when you have a great year. If you're not doing the same, you are going to get left behind."

And you're certainly not going to win the war.

- APNZ

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