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

League: All-Kiwi backs at Warriors

The potential of David Fusitu'a in the Warriors backline  appears huge. Photo / Photosport
The potential of David Fusitu'a in the Warriors backline appears huge. Photo / Photosport

For the first time in more than a decade, the Warriors are set to have all-Kiwi backline.

Coach Stephen Kearney's first choice back division in 2017 is likely to be made up of players either born or produced in New Zealand.

It's a positive sign.

That, after all, was the vision for the club when it first began more than 20 years ago.

Over that time, the club has had plenty of good Australians, with Steve Price, James Maloney, Kevin Campion, Brent Tate and Micheal Luck near the top of that list.

The Warriors will always need to import talent but the club has lost its way since the turn of the decade. Dane Nielsen, Feleti Mateo, Todd Lowrie and Jayson Bukuya were all players who failed to live up to expectations, and even Sam Tomkins, for all his attacking skills, won't be remembered as a great buy.

The nadir was when two "elite junior" forwards were bought out from England in 2014, to the city that produces more raw talent than probably any other on the globe.

They were soon shipped out to Fox Memorial clubs, where they struggled to make the grade, before swiftly returning to the Northern Hemisphere.

The Warriors need to build on local products, players who can become heroes to the fans.

It's likely next Sunday against Newcastle will see Manu Vatuvei and Tui Lolohea alongside Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in the back three, with Solomone Kata and David Fusitu'a the preferred centre combination and Ata Hingano and Shaun Johnson in the halves.

It's a statement of intent from Kearney. The likes of Fusitu'a and Lolohea have plenty of attacking threat and flair. But more importantly, they are players who should be invested in, to see what they can become. The potential of Fusitu'a, in particular, appears huge.

In contrast, last season - perhaps because his job was on the line - Andrew McFadden tended towards safer choices such as Blake Ayshford and Johnathan Wright.

Such Australians, along with Matt Allwood, are steady squad players but aren't the types to take the Warriors to the next level. Fusitu'a, Lolohea and Kata all have things to work on with the defensive side of the game, but surely it's better to learn on the job.

The last time the Warriors had a first choice all-New Zealand backline was in 2003, with Motu Tony, Clinton Toopi, Vinnie Anderson, Stacey Jones, Lance Hohaia, Brent Webb, Henry Fa'afili and Frances Meli on the roster.

They reached the preliminary final that year after finishing sixth on the table.

"We want to become a development club," said Warriors coach Stephen Kearney. "In the long term, that's what creates success. [So] that is our future, that's what we have to strive for."

- NZ Herald

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