David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

Warriors aware of pressure to perform at Nines

Jonathan Wright. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Jonathan Wright. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Each year there's a tremendous amount of pressure on the Warriors to perform in the NRL Auckland Nines but outside back Jonathan Wright says they are taking a more relaxed approach into the Eden Park tournament this weekend.

The Warriors are accustomed to having high expectations placed on them, as the one and only host club, and despite stacking their team full of big names and thrilling the crowd with some typically entertaining play over the last two years, they have failed to live up to their potential in the short-form game.

Coach Andrew McFadden's side bowed out unexpectedly in the semifinals of the inaugural 2014 tournament and last year were bundled out in the quarter-finals.

Part of the reason for their underwhelming results is the fact they have been caught up in the hype surrounding their status as tournament favourites, but Wright says they are carrying a more laidback attitude this year.

"The team has learned from last year," Wright told Radio Sport.

"The last few years the boys and the coaches have sort of gone overboard a bit.

"There was a lot of pressure on the boys and they took it probably too seriously and this year we've kept it nice and relaxed," Wright said.

"A lot of people expect the Warriors to do very well in this competition, and I don't blame them, but this year they have just taken a step back and hopefully will just throw the ball around a bit more and keep it a bit more low-key during the build-up."

The 28-year-old is thrilled to have been included in McFadden's nines squad, having played the 2014 tournament with his former club Cronulla before being ruled out of last year's Warriors' campaign due to a carry-over suspension.

"I was shattered last year when I found out I couldn't play and then this year I've got the nod from Cappy [McFadden] so I'm pretty excited," Wright said. "I enjoyed it the first year. It's a great weekend, the fans get into it and it's something different and I'm really looking forward to putting the jersey on."

Adding to the weight of expectation upon the Warriors this year is the off-season arrival of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke, two of the biggest purchases in the club's history, but Wright insists the entire squad needs to perform to help the side perform consistently.

"With the quality of players they've got in the squad now it basically comes down to there being no excuses," he said.

"But again, you can have a star-studded line-up and still not perform, so it comes down to the whole squad buying into the coaching staff and what we want to achieve and how we're going to play.

"We're all confident and we know what we can do, there just needs to be a consistent level of how we play during the year."

- NZ Herald

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