David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: McFadden wary of fast-tracking Warriors young guns

Warriors coach Andrew McFadden does not want his younger players to become over-exposed to the harsh reality of the NRL. Photo / Getty Images
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden does not want his younger players to become over-exposed to the harsh reality of the NRL. Photo / Getty Images

The Warriors have a talented roster containing some of the brightest young prospects in the game but coach Andrew McFadden is wary of fast-tracking their development and over-exposing them to the unrelenting grind of the NRL.

The Warriors wealth of young talent is the envy of most clubs and while some players could leave for a guaranteed starting spot in other teams McFadden believes their long-term careers will benefit from a gradual introduction into first grade.

Despite impressing in sporadic or a string of first grade appearances, McFadden has not hesitated in benching the likes of Kiwis international Tui Lolohea, or holding back or demoting numerous others like Ken Maumalo, Sam Lisone, Albert Vete, Charlie Gubb, Jazz Tevaga, John Palavi, Toafofoa Sipley, or new sensation Bunty Afoa.

After being on the receiving end of intense criticism for giving limited game time to 21-year-old Lolohea in recent weeks, McFadden says drip-feeding his young guns into the NRL is for the mental and physical benefit of the individual and for the greater good of his team.

"It's a tough competition and these guys are still learning," said McFadden.

"People don't understand the relentless nature and how tough it is for these young men.

"At the moment, young players, sometimes they come in and out and that's the nature of it."

McFadden understands the high calibre of raw talent at his disposal and insists he has a good and accurate gauge of how they are tracking week to week.

Rookies may burst on to the scene riding a wave of confidence and enthusiasm over three or four matches before concentration lapses and mental and physical fatigue begin to creep in.

Lisone, Vete, and Maumalo have all taken their games to a new level this season after battling inconsistency last year. The trio made strong impressions through their initial appearances in 2015 but slipped off the pace as the season wore on.

Even James Gavet, a veteran by comparison in his fifth NRL season, has had his ups and downs this year, starting off the campaign in first grade before a drop in intensity saw him relegated to NSW Cup for a prolonged stint.

"They're very young and all of these guys are all less than 30 or 40 games into their career," he said.

"Most coaches will tell you you're not really a first grader until you're above 50 or 100. That's when you really start to understand the game.

"They're still very talented and doing a great job, but I get to see them seven days a week and see their energy levels and understand how they're feeling emotionally, and that's certainly factored into my decision making when I pick the team.

"With young guys it's really important to manage their energy. It's tough to get them up for every week and certainly their enthusiasm is great when they come in.

"But the hard part about this game is the week to week relentless nature of the competition. That's tough for young players."

- NZ Herald

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