NRL: Elliott resists urge for big changes

By Michael Brown

McGahan agrees with Elliott's decision to give humiliated side a second chance.

Warriors coach Matt Elliott. Photo / Getty Images
Warriors coach Matt Elliott. Photo / Getty Images

The Warriors have a slogan this year of "Rise With Us" and for fans it can't come soon enough after a disappointing and deflating start to the season, which conjured up memories of a dreadful 2012 campaign.

All of the optimism of pre-season was eroded in 80 minutes against Parramatta, when they were thrashed 40-10 by last year's wooden spooners.

The Warriors had been bullish about how they had crossed a line in the sand and last year was history. Sadly, it doesn't seem like everyone crossed that line and Warriors coach Matt Elliott now says he has a better understanding of that.

As much as he needs to work on his side's defence, he also needs to ensure his players are tuned in as they contemplate a 10th-straight NRL defeat. He has said they were "tired and disjointed" against the Eels and "too easily distracted".

They will come up against a fairly big one on Saturday, when the man with the three most recognisable initials in Australasian sport comes to Eden Park with the Sydney Roosters.

Sonny Bill Williams, named last night to start, has more than enough ability to exploit a defence that conceded seven tries against the Eels and it's only a matter of time before he finds his feet again after five years away from league.

The presence of Williams is probably a good thing for the Warriors. Not only will it attract punters to Eden Park but it will also take some of the spotlight off a Warriors outfit seemingly battling their own demons.

Elliott has resisted the urge to make wholesale changes to the starting side to face the Roosters. Bill Tupou will play on the wing in place of Manu Vatuvei, who is out for up to three weeks with an ankle injury, and Steve Rapira will start in the second row instead of Feleti Mateo, who drops to the bench.

Former Kiwis captain Hugh McGahan isn't too worried about the Warriors, yet, and expects to see a much improved effort.

"The embarrassment of that defeat will always raise their performance," McGahan said. "They have to play their way out of it. Once they are playing well, their confidence will come back but it is just one game. It's still early days so I can understand why Matt Elliott has kept the team the same.

"They just have to start getting into a groove. I keep coming back to the same problem - the halves are still an issue."

Warriors side to play the Sydney Roosters at Eden Park, Auckland, on Saturday (7.30pm): Kevin Locke, Glen Fisiiahi, Dane Nielsen, Konrad Hurrell, Bill Tupou, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Elijah Taylor, Ben Matulino, Steve Rapira, Simon Mannering (c), Todd Lowrie. Interchange (one to be omitted): Jacob Lillyman, Feleti Mateo, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Pita Godinet, Ben Henry.

- NZ Herald

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