Accolades are raining down on the Warriors, with the game's leading pundits predicting they will beat Penrith in Saturday night's sudden-death NRL clash in Sydney.

The usual derision for the Warriors has been replaced with delight, including claims their leading lights deserve to be 2018 award winners.

Coach Steve Kearney, captain Roger-Tuivasa Sheck and hooker Issac Luke have been picked out for special mention.

The fifth-seeded Panthers are $1.70 favourites to win the elimination finals match at the 85,000 capacity Olympic stadium, with the eighth-ranked Warriors paying around $2.15.


But renowned tipsters appear to be shifting the other way.

Fox Sports' Michael Ennis is picking a Warriors upset in a wild match between "flamboyant" teams, and says the Auckland club can go all the way..

"I applaud what Stephen Kearney has done — it's been a terrific season," said Ennis, who had a 14-season NRL career with five clubs, and played State of Origin.

"I don't know if they can win three weeks in a row in Australia but they can really trouble the Panthers.

"Everyone talks (Shaun) Johnson up, (Roger) Tuivasa-Sheck, but Issac Luke is their key. If he gets his game right he is the most damaging hooker in the competition.

"I love their spine. The Warriors can win this competition if Issac Luke has a terrific month."

Veteran league journalist Brad Walter has picked out Roger Tuivasa-Sheck as the player of the year, and Steve Kearney as the coach of the year.

Walter pointed to Tuivasa-Sheck's outstanding statistics, which included a staggering 338 run metres in a match against Newcastle.


"Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has demonstrated why the battle to keep him from the clutches of the All Blacks was so significant," Walter wrote on

"The Warriors captain is a major reason for his team making the finals for the first time since 2011.

"Under Kearney's guidance, the Warriors have been a much more consistent and durable evidenced by the number of games they managed to win in the absence of stars such as Shaun Johnson...Kearney should be coach of the year."'s power ranking expert Jamie Soward, another former State of Origin player, said the Warriors had played "smart footy and for each other".

The club had developed a new, resilient personality.

"I tipped this team to finish second-last, but what an amazing turnaround," he said.

"They've gotten really fit, played hard-nosed footy, controlled their off-loads."

He said Penrith could play like a top two side but were too inconsistent.

Nick Campton, of the Herald Sun, is predicting a 34 - 26 win to the Warriors in a "track meet".

"The win by the Warriors two weeks ago is too difficult to ignore," he reckoned.

Campton also lauded No.9 Luke, saying: "The energy and aggression he provides around the ruck is a big part of the transformation the Warriors have undergone this season and he has become the beating heart of the side.

"(Penrith) have made an art of improbable comeback victories but have been on the ropes since Origin."