Set of Six: Where the Warriors are going wrong

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Thomas Leuluai of the New Zealand Warriors. Photo / Getty Images.
Thomas Leuluai of the New Zealand Warriors. Photo / Getty Images.

Justis Kamu recaps the first round of the NRL season and the big questions that hover over the Warriors in 2013.

1. Thank goodness it's only round one

The Warriors were awful in their heavy 40-10 loss to the Parramatta Eels.

They suffered their worst defeat in a season opener in the club's proud 18 year history.
The halves were unimaginative, the defence hasn't improved, and they tried to run over their opponents with one-off-the-ruck runners.

Add to that the poor fifth tackle options and the unnecessary offloads (this seems to be contagious at the club).

There was little to witness in round one to get the public excited about the Warriors in 2013 season.

However before the knives come out and all faith is lost there is no need to panic - after all it was the first game of the season.

No NRL title has ever been won after the first weekend of games.

Last weekend's game isn't an indicator of the season's fate with 25 rounds of games still to be played.

Over the years many teams have started the season hot and cooled over the year to miss the top eight.

And the same has happened in reverse for side's who lose in the opening rounds.

With both the Warriors and Roosters coming off the back of losses a first victory at the adopted home of Eden Park would be a great way to get the home side's season rolling and break free from the shackles of nine successive defeats.

2. Taylor better suited to backrow

The 2013 Warriors coaches have repeated another positional gaffe committed by coaches of yesteryear using players out of position.

Previously it was Simon Mannering and Ben Henry who were forwards playing out in the centres.

And this time it's Elijah Taylor - another forward being used in the hugely important role of hooker.

An odd and unnatural position to place a second rower/lock, bearing in mind that Warriors have a ball playing hooker/stand-off in Pita Godinet on the bench.

At hooker his instinctive game seems to be stifled by having to conform to a pre-programmed role that has been planned during the week's preparations.

He looks robotic playing out of the ruck and this is detrimental to the side which needs a creative threat around the big boppers of Steve Rapira, Jacob Lillyman and Ben Matulino.
Although he topped the tackle count (40) which is impressive, in general play Taylor lacks the understanding of a regular hooker.

The injection of Pita Godinet into the fray energised the Warriors and his sweet short-ball presented Jacob Lillyman with his 56th minute try.

Admittedly Godinet is a lightweight in the middle of the park and doesn't have the defensive capability of Taylor or Friend.

However his ability with ball and vision is needed for a side that looked short of ideas with the ball in hand.

3. ASADA circles the Sharks

It's been a tumultuous week for the Cronulla Sharks who secured an emotional 12-10 victory over the Gold Coast Titans in their NRL opener at Shark Park.

Four team officials (Team Doctor, Physiotherapist, Head Trainer and Football Manager) were sacked and coach Shane Flanagan was stood down just 48 hours before their Saturday night game.

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency (ASADA) has been trying to get Sharks players to confess to taking stimulants that were provided legally by the club during the 2011 season.

Despite no evidence being presented by ASADA to verify that the prohibited substance peptides were injected into Sharks players.

The Sharks board in spite of the presumed innocence of their employees forced them out and have urged players to accept six-month bans with full pay and a 12-month contract extension if they own up.

Sharks fans and players are feeling aggrieved by the actions of their club board and rightly so.

Their lack of loyalty to staff and players when no evidential proof has been submitted lacks any integrity and is an unnecessary step considering that the ASADA investigation is on-going.

This distraction will no doubt affect the team's preparation over the season with coach Flanagan unable to partake in any team activities until further notice.

With the Sharks putting together arguably their best side in 10 years, these off-field dramas is likely to curtail the club's performances if these allegations aren't put to bed sooner rather than later.

4. Tigers or Warriors, who had the worst season opener?
The Tigers looked the worst of the two teams despite both having 40+ points racked up against them in round one.

Although the Tigers and the Warriors were equally incompetent in defence conceding seven tries each.

The Tigers in their match against the Knights missed 36 tackles and sorely lacked any real go-forward.

Tigers prop Keith Galloway (109m) was the only member of his side to run for more than 100 metres on Monday night.

His fellow forwards bar Robbie Farah (89m) were all held to 30m or less as they were made to tackle for the best part of 80 minutes.

That was largely due to the tidy completion rate (34/40, 85%) of the Knights who looked dangerous in their first-hit out of the season.

Although the Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah provided the assists in the side's two tries, Jacob Miller (halfback) and Tim Moltzen (fullback) who are in the playmaker roles were uninspiring.

The Warriors were marginally better as they had a better completion rate (20/29, 69%) than the Eels but struggled to stop the run particularly down Feleti Mateo's corridor.

Although the Warriors were behind by 18 at halftime, two tries in five minutes after the break had brought the team back to 10-18 with 20 minutes to play.

That glimmer of hope (even if it was just for five minutes) gives them the edge over the Tigers who were dead and buried after Akuila Uate's second try in the 46th minute.

5. Your comments
@Ricardo
Absolutely the mighty Sharks will be right in the mix this season - best pack in the competition, experienced halves and plenty of skill and speed across the backline, and internationals sitting on the interchange bench in Tupou and Heighington, plus an underrated and astute coach in Shane Flanagan. Up Up Cronulla!

Agree that the Sharks have one of the better packs in the competition. But not convinced that their backline can foot it with the top of half of the competition. Their backs were second best in the game against the Titans although it was their maiden NRL match together in that formation. It's still early in the competition so they have plenty of time to improve. They face the Rabbitohs this weekend who will give them a rigorous test out-wide.

@R.I.P Rugby
I reckon Johnson and Locke would be a magic pairing and we will not be waiting for the Locke long term injury every time the high ball goes up or someone bashes him on the kick return. His hands are on the ball more and he can create with a certain amount of protection. I think he would make the change easily.

At Hooker obviously with Friend out we are just plain weak. Trying to convert Taylor will take a lot of time, if he's successful there at all. I think it could be a long season because if you do not have real class in those 3 key areas you're doomed.

- S Johnson and K Locke would be a fantastic pairing in the halves if only Locke had played in this position before. The Parramatta Eels tried out J Hayne at standoff a few years back but that move just didn't work out. With the defence right at his doorstep he had little space to express his running game and his playmaking ability wasn't up to scratch. Locke is a fullback and so should play there or deputise at wing if the team needs him to. If an injury crisis were to hit the Warriors then such a move wouldn't be too far off the mark but at this stage it's best he stay at the back. Agree Taylor is no hooker and should be at second row/lock or on the interchange bench.

@ditch
I think Manu's work in returning the ball from deep within our own half and getting it out past the twenty is severly underestimated. So often it it is his first or second hit up that gets us away from our own tryline and takes the pressure off. That said, his wing play was lacking last year.

- When he's in top form Manu is the Warriors number one winger and in that opening 20 minutes against the Eels he looked sharp. A major loss for the Warriors over the next two-three rounds who will have to make do with a lighter and less frightening pair of G Fisiiahi and B Tupou.

6. Team of the week
1. Jarryd Hayne (Eels)
2. Nathan Meritt (Rabbitohs)
3. Dane Gagai (Knights)
4. Justin O'Neil
(Storm)
5. Akuila Uate (Knights)
6. Gareth Widdop (Storm)
7. Chris Sandow (Eels)
8. Sam Burgess (Rabbitohs)
9. James Segeyaro (Panthers)
10. James Tamou (Cowboys)
11. Reni Maitua (Eels)
12. Wade Graham (Sharks)
13. Paul Gallen (Sharks)

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