David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL Nines: Pressure is on the Warriors, once again

The Warriors star-studded line-up means there's always huge expectations on them to take out the NRL Auckland Nines says Penrith utility Tyrone Peachey.

Peachey is one of several players from rival clubs willing to acknowledge the Warriors as the side under the most pressure going into the upcoming short-from preseason tournament at Eden Park over Waitangi Weekend February 4 and 5.

They may hold a valuable home advantage as 'host club' but their status as overwhelming crowd favourites also provides their opposition with ample motivation to crash the Warriors' Nines party.

With Warriors star Shaun Johnson widely recognised as the tournament 'King' and numerous other stars in their line-up, Peachey believes the Warriors are vulnerable to the huge expectations placed upon them.

"They have a pretty good team, with Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Shaun Johnson, so they have a lot of big expectations (on them)," said Peachey.

"I think the expectation, because of Shaun Johnson, they have to do well.

"And the crowd gets behind them and every other team will want to beat the Warriors to try and silence them."

The Warriors rightfully embrace the occasion as a chance to showcase their skills and further promote rugby league in New Zealand, while the other clubs take a more relaxed approach, viewing the weekend as a chance to get away and bond together ahead of the start of the NRL season after a long and difficult summer's training.

And while they never fail to entertain, the Warriors are yet to win the tournament in three attempts so far.

In 2014 at the inaugural tournament they were beaten in the semi-finals by eventual title winners North Queensland.

A year later they were knocked-out in the quarter-finals by the Cronulla Sharks who went on to lose the tournament final to South Sydney.

Last year the Warriors managed to progress through to the final but never got out of first gear as Parramatta enjoyed a one-sided 22-4 victory.

"It's always tough top play in front of your home crowd and perform in front on them, all of the pressures come from that," observed Brisbane Broncos back-rower Alex Glenn.

"But the Warriors, towards the back-end, they're in the finals so they're always a tough team to beat.

"You know when the Warriors are playing because the stadium is packed and the atmosphere is crazy."

Glenn says the Broncos place the same importance on enjoying the weekend as do on set completions and ball control.

"It's always a tough weekend but at the same time it's fun because everyone's relaxed, you're going out there and throwing the ball around," he said.

"Obviously you're trying to get some combinations going with your team but the most important thing is having fun.

"Us, as a Broncos team, we enjoy it and we go over there and throw the ball around and have fun.

"The aim is to get to the end and walk away with the tournament trophy but as long as we're having fun doing it."

Former Warrior-turned-Sydney Roosters forward Sio Siua Taukeiaho has sympathy for his old club mates and knows the pressure they come under to succeed.

"There's a lot of stars there at the Warriors and a lot of the fans support the Warriors as well," he said.

"So they've got to turn up and hopefully win all of their games and for us Sydney-based players, it's all about a trip over to New Zealand, having a good time and playing some good footy."

Warriors captain Ryan Hoffman experienced playing in the Nines among a visiting team with his former club Melbourne but insists the weekend holds just as much appeal for him now.

Rather than viewing the expectation and pressure as a burden, Hoffman says the Warriors recognise the tournament is an event to be celebrated.

"I enjoy it just as much as I did when I travelled over with Melbourne," said Hoffman.
"It's a big event, it's a weekend. It's a celebration, I feel, of rugby league in New Zealand.

"It's great that the public and the NRL get behind it, but the league fans of New Zealand deserve an event like that, so for us, as a team, to be a part of it and to be the 'host team' is a great chance for us to thank our fans and hopefully we can thank our fans by being successful."

- NZ Herald

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