NRL: Warriors primed for homecoming

By David Skipwith

Clash at Mt Smart against Newcastle Knights chance for team to build on recent encouraging performances.

The Warrior's die-hard supporter base will no doubt be out in force to celebrate the homecoming. Photo / Getty Images
The Warrior's die-hard supporter base will no doubt be out in force to celebrate the homecoming. Photo / Getty Images

They say a change is as good as a holiday, however the Warriors' three-game Eden Park sojourn failed to live up to the glossy travel brochures, with the cross-town venue change doing little to inspire the team, or their members and fans.

With that experiment now done and dusted, the Warriors will enjoy a well-timed return "home" to Mt Smart Stadium for Sunday's clash against the Newcastle Knights.

The round nine romp over the Raiders was the highlight of their Mt Eden vacation, with the Warriors showcasing some of their best form to register their first win at the rugby stronghold, after earlier disappointments against the Dragons and Bulldogs.

Two weeks on, with five wins and six losses leaving them two points outside the top eight in 12th spot, the Warriors will be eager to return to their traditional home ground looking to build on recent encouraging performances.

While it is a stretch to consider Mt Smart a graveyard for visiting teams, an away date with the Warriors in Penrose on a cold day must rank high among the least appealing destinations for any travelling Australian side.

The ground possesses a certain mojo that Warriors players and the crowd seem to feed off, while the unglamorous industrial surrounds help reinforce the club's working class values.

Their die-hard supporter base will no doubt be out in force to celebrate the homecoming, and fittingly, Simon Mannering will achieve a milestone double - playing his 200th NRL game and his 100th game as captain - while hooker Nathan Friend will clock up a half-century of appearances for the club.

Saturday night's grinding 24-16 win over a depleted Titans wasn't pretty, but a successful second-half comeback and defensive shut-out indicates the team are continuing a gradual transformation from no-hopers to finals contenders under coach Andrew McFadden.

A victory over the embattled Novocastrians this weekend would give the Warriors added confidence going into their round 13 clash against South Sydney, ahead of their first bye and the much needed chance to rest some weary legs.

Two more home matches follow against the Broncos and Panthers before another week off, while the remaining nine rounds of the regular season sees the Warriors host five games against the Eels, Sea Eagles, Sharks, Roosters, and Titans.

If home is indeed where the heart is, Warriors supporters will be looking for plenty of effort as their side looks to rein in a top eight spot for the first time since the glory days of 2011.

*St George Illawarra have sacked coach Steve Price and replaced him with assistant Paul McGregor for the rest of the NRL season.

McGregor left the NSW State of Origin team camp on Sunday night to fly back to Wollongong and take over the team's preparation, though he is to return to Brisbane tomorrow for the opening game of the series that night.

Dragons chief executive Peter Doust said the board decided Price had to go as he hadn't been able to deliver results required following the addition of big name signings including Josh Dugan and Gareth Widdop, having missed the finals in his previous two seasons in charge.

Price's team have slumped to six losses in their past seven games to be 13th on the ladder after a promising season start of three straight wins.

- NZ Herald

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