Set of Six: Where's the love for Elliott?

By Justis Kamu

Matt Elliott. Photo / Getty Images.
Matt Elliott. Photo / Getty Images.

The old adage that players win games and coaches lose them could not be more truer than the current turn of events in the NZ Warriors season.

After their humiliating 62-6 defeat to the Penrith Panthers in round ten, the public were calling for coach Matt Elliott to be sacked from his post.

With just two wins in ten matches, he was vilified by the public for being a dud appointment; having a poor coaching record; being unimaginative in attack and several other accusations.

Exactly 10 rounds later the Warriors have executed an extreme makeover on their once nightmare season.

Winning seven of their last eight matches, they have claimed 18 out of 20 points over the past 10 weeks, and now stand at the doorstep of the coveted top eight in the NRL ladder.

If that wasn't enough, they defeated last season's champions on the weekend and are currently playing the most exciting brand of football in the competition.

Leading players Shaun Johnson, Kevin Locke, Simon Mannering have all found their mojo under his tenure.

With Mt Smart Stadium close to eruption level on Sunday afternoon and the enthusiasm of fans is at the highest level it has been in two seasons.

Yet, the affection shown for coach Elliott has been slow from both fans and media alike.

The defence has vastly improved, their attack which faltered earlier in the season is now as slick as a gelled David Beckham.

The Warriors are winning, you can almost taste playoffs football.

Having been the laughing stock of New Zealand sport in May to now earning its status as the must watch sport's team on the weekend.

Why is Elliott not getting the credit he deserves for guiding the Warriors upturn?

2. Warriors' Peyroux cementing his spot

The signing of Dominique Peyroux to the NZ Warriors from the Gold Coast Titans is proving to be a handy acquisition for the club.

The Auckland born centre/second rower had a significant impact in his 29 minute cameo in Sunday's clash against the Storm.

Strong in the tackle and confident with the ball, he had his best game in the Warriors jumper since his arrival from the sunny South-East coast of Queensland.

Initially, Peyroux's place on the bench wasn't justified in rounds 13-17 considering the lack of impact he was making during his 20-30 minute stints.

Conventional wisdom would have reverted back to opting for Pita Godinet off the bench with his movement and crisp passing play out of dummy half.

However the coaching staff's persistence with the Peyroux has transpired to be somewhat of a saving grace for the side with his defensive steel bringing extra security out wide down the much-target right flank.

3. Try of the weekend - Leuluai or Nofoaluma?

Two superb tries were scored on the weekend that are both contenders for try of the season.

NZ Warriors five-eighth Thomas Leuluai first half try against the Melbourne Storm and David Nofoaluma's flying cartwheel four pointer against the Manly Sea Eagles.

Leuluai's try was Manu Vatuvei-esque in that he used his size and strength to wriggle, spin and bust through a pack of defenders.

That is no mean feat considering the Kiwis international stands at just 1.75m tall and weighs 86kgs and also choose to go through the middle of the opposition's forward pack.

While the Warriors standoff took the ground route to cross the chalk, Nofoaloma went through the air in an effort that some have called the try of the century.

That's a bit far-fetched but nevertheless it was an outstanding try.

Standoff Benji Marshall kicked for the corner before the acrobatic 19 year-old Nofoaluma leapt high above his opposite winger to touch the ball down in the in-goal while his body was outside the field of play.

It's a tough call to make picking one try over the other as both four-pointers were exceptional on their own merits.

However not one to sit on the fence, Leuluai's try would have to be the pick of the weekend.

4. Who will the Cowboys appoint to head coach in 2014?

The sacking of North Queensland Cowboys head coach Neil Henry on Monday was not a surprise decision at all.

The writing had been on the wall for Henry's future for quite some time having won just six matches all season.

With Australia and Origin stars Jonathan Thurston, Brent Tate, Matt Scott, and James Tamou in his weekly lineup plus the cream of the crop of young forwards in Tariq Sims and Josh Taumalolo.

The Cowboys should be in the top eight of this year's competition not lagging in the bottom four of the competition.

They have scored the fourth least points out of 16 teams and have the sixth worst defence having given up 373 points in 2013.

Friday's night 18-16 loss to the Broncos was the final straw for the Cowboys head office and the club will look to appoint a new head coach before pre-season training starts in November.

5. Was the NZ Warriors v Melbourne Storm the greatest match ever?

NRL legend Brad Fittler certainly thinks that it was and his penned his account of the NZ Warriors 30-22 victory over the Melbourne Storm.

To read his reasoning as to why the weekend's match was the greatest regular season match of all time, read it here:

6. Team of the week - Round 20
1. Fullback: Michael Gordon (Sharks)
2. Wing: Corey Oates (Broncos)
3. Centre: Jamie Lyons (Sea Eagles)
4. Centre: Justin Hodges (Broncos)
5. Wing: Sosaia Feki (Sharks)
6. Five-eighth: Thomas Leuluai (Warriors)
7. Halfback: Shaun Johnson (Warriors)
8. Prop: James Graham (Bulldogs)
9. Hooker: Michael Ennis (Bulldogs)
10. Prop: George Burgess (Rabbitohs)
11. Second row: Matt Gillett (Broncos)
12. Second row: Sonny Bill Williams (Roosters)
13. Lock: Sam Burgess (Rabbitohs)

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