The Warriors are on the edge of a dream.

No one should get too carried away yet, especially given the nature of the NRL this year, but it's hard not to get excited about the prospects of the Auckland club.

After an impressive campaign, anchored by a record eight wins on the road, the Warriors are in a promising position.

They sit in eighth place on 26 points, with only a two point gap between the fourth placed Dragons and the Warriors.


The Warriors have a favourable run home — arguably the best of the other finals contenders — with three home matches and only one game against another top eight team.

It means the target in their cross hairs has to shift slightly. While no one associated with the club would admit it, just making the finals is no longer the primary aim.

After the season they've had, the Warriors will want to finish fifth or sixth. That would guarantee a home finals match in week one, which would be the first time post season football has been seen at Mt Smart since 2008.

Or perhaps, even higher, to fourth, to ensure a double life in the playoffs, though that looks more improbable.

The Rabbitohs (32 points), Storm (30) and Roosters (30) are comfortably ensconced in the top three, and are unlikely to be shifted.

It means a battle between the Dragons (28), Panthers (28), Sharks (26), Broncos (26) and Warriors (26) for the prime fourth, fifth and sixth positions, with the Tigers (22) lurking, ready to take advantage of any slips.

The Dragons have been wobbling lately but they have a reasonable August run, with no games against teams in the top eight, though they face tricky trips to Leichhardt and Newcastle.

The Panthers and Broncos appear to have the toughest schedules. Penrith travel to Auckland and Melbourne to finish the season, as well as an away game against the unpredictable Titans. The Broncos have an intra-state battle in Townsville, before consecutive games against the Rabbitohs and the Roosters. By comparison, the Sharks have fared well, though they face the Storm in Melbourne on Sunday.


Of course there are no easy games in the NRL, but it's time for the Warriors to click. Their spine has developed across the year, with Issac Luke close to career best form and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck not far away. Blake Green has been the steadying influence the club has craved for years, and the Australian's experience and cool head will be vital over the coming weeks.

Shaun Johnson has exhibited a more mature side to his game this year, while the backs outside him have improved both their offensive and defensive capabilities. Ultimately, though, the forwards' ability to match it with more highly rated packs will determine the Warriors' fate, though they have demonstrated their mettle already on several occasions this season.

The Warriors named an unchanged starting team to face the Knights on Friday (8pm), with Luke set to play his 250th NRL game, though Bunty Afoa faced a judicial hearing on Tuesday night.

Warriors v Newcastle Knights
8.00pm, Friday, August 10, 2018
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland

1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (C)
2 David Fusitu'a
3 Gerard Beale
4 Solomone Kata
5 Ken Maumalo
6 Blake Green
7 Shaun Johnson
8 James Gavet
9 Issac Luke
10 Agnatius Paasi
11 Isaiah Papali'i
12 Adam Blair
13 Simon Mannering
14 Jazz Tevaga
15 Leivaha Pulu
16 Bunty Afoa
17 Peta Hiku
18 Anthony Gelling
20 Joseph Vuna
21 Chris Satae
22 Karl Lawton
Head coach | Stephen Kearney