Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Issues at the Warriors: Part 2 - No defending defensive record

Warriors player David Fusitu'a looks dejected after their loss during round 25 against the Wests Tigers. Photo / Dean Purcell
Warriors player David Fusitu'a looks dejected after their loss during round 25 against the Wests Tigers. Photo / Dean Purcell

There is - unfortunately - no way to sugar coat the Warriors defensive record this year.

It's been pretty awful, and continued a pattern of the last few years.

Since the beginning of this decade the Warriors' defence has gone south, in a big way. That is the most noticeable trend, when you delve back a few years.

It wasn't so long ago that the Warriors had one of the best defences in the NRL, but that seems a distant memory now.

Their defence was supposed to improve this season, and at times it was quite impressive. But overall, not nearly good enough, for not nearly long enough.

600 points conceded, at an average 25 per game. It was the third worst in the competition, only behind the hapless Knights (who shipped 800 points) and the Tigers (607), thanks to their heavy defeat against the Raiders last Sunday afternoon.

Defence, according to most experts, is about systems and attitude. The 2016 Warriors have mastered neither.

There were a few alarm bells ringing even before the season, when assistant coach Justin Morgan remarked that their defensive system was "going to be a work in progress", after a 46-10 defeat against the Dragons in their final pre-season trial.

On the eve of the NRL season that wasn't the ideal scenario - and so it proved with some disastrous defending in the first game of the year at Campbelltown, which still makes for uncomfortable viewing now.

Whatever unfolded this year at Mt Smart, the inescapable conclusion is that the coaching staff were unable to implement a defensive system that suited the personnel at the club.

There was talk of Morgan, who was hired from the Storm, bringing elements of the Melbourne system here, but for whatever reason it didn't translate.

The second element of a good defence is attitude and commitment. At times this year the Warriors showed plenty, particularly against the Sharks (away), Titans (away) and Sea Eagles (Perth). But much of the year was sub-par.

That's the overriding memory of this season; opposition teams scoring tries they had no right to, from the Storm strolling over eight times on Anzac day to the Eels crossing for seven touchdowns last Sunday .

It was epitomized by Bevan French's second try on Sunday, as the fullback ran 15 metres from dummy half untouched.

On too many occasions individual players haven't been willing - or able - to provide the defensive spirit that makes teams like the Storm, Cowboys, Raiders and Sharks so hard to beat.

Looking back over the current decade, the teams of 2010 and 2011 stand out like beacons.

In 2010 only the Dragons (the eventual premiers) and the Storm conceded fewer points than Warriors' 486.

In 2011 the Warriors' team had the fifth best defensive record in the NRL (393), inferior only to the Storm, Sea Eagles, Broncos and Dragons.

Those two squads contained a core of players that prided themselves on function over frills.

Think of Lance Hohaia, Ian Henderson, Simon Mannering, Brent Tate, Micheal Luck, Sam Rapira, Lewis Brown, Aaron Heremaia and Elijah Taylor.

Their coaching staff also came up with a defensive system that worked, and were able to get the best out of their playing squad.

Warriors' points conceded:
2016: 600 (14th in the NRL)
2015: 14th
2014: 9th
2013: 13th
2012: 14th
2011: 5th
2010: 3rd

Warriors' points scored
2016: 513 (10th in the NRL)
2015: 12th
2014: 4th
2013: 10th equal
2012: 7th equal
2011: 7th
2010: 7th

Part 3 Tomorrow: Why it's a mistake to focus on individual errors.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 30 Mar 2017 13:52:09 Processing Time: 579ms