Assessing the Warriors' chances in 2019 is a bit like watching a Brexit debate in England.

No one knows quite what will happen, but it's guaranteed to be interesting.

It will be hard to match their finals run of last year, simply because they are unlikely to repeat the glorious start (7-2 after nine games) and the NRL looks a stronger field this year.

All of last year's top eight will again be prime contenders, with only perhaps the Sharks and Dragons candidates to slip down.


Outside them, there are a clutch of teams looking to rise, headed by the Knights, Cowboys, Raiders and Titans.

The Warriors also have a tough draw; the NRL structure means you play nine teams twice (and the rest only once) and the Warriors have drawn 'doubles' against five of their seven top eight rivals last year.

No Perth trip is certainly a bonus, but their last month is daunting, with away games against the Roosters, Sharks and Raiders and a home match against Wayne Bennett's Rabbitohs.

On many levels, the Warriors will be an improved outfit this year.

Their conditioning base is stronger, with a second pre-season under Alex Corvo, and their forward pack will be a more effective unit, with Leeson Ah Mau adding experience and grunt — though James Gavet's aggression will be missed.

Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu'a will continue their rise — is there a better all round wing duo in the competition? — and Solomone Kata's switch to the right flank may prove inspired. Young props Bunty Afoa and Agnatius Paasi also have considerable growth in them, and Sam Lisone has something to prove.

On the debit side, the loss of Shaun Johnson will be felt, especially in the first few months as the spine adjusts to his absence. He'll leave a considerable vacuum, and mean their attack will become a bit more predictable.

There is a massive load on Blake Green's shoulders, while Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke will be targeted even more, as the two prominent game breakers in the team.


Simon Mannering's influence, on and off the field, will also be hard to replace, while Jazz Tevaga and Isaiah Papali'i will be tested in their sophomore seasons.

The club are short of an experienced half and a dominating prop and their potential for second phase play isn't as strong as some previous Warriors outfits.

There will be less fireworks and flair, more grit and grind. Their season will be defined by a tough six match run in June and July, when they host the Storm, Panthers and Sharks (Wellington) and travel to the Gold Coast, Newcastle and Brisbane.

It will be a testing year for Stephen Kearney and his men, though there is no reason they can't be part of the race.

They might be middle of the pack for much of the year, rather than the lofty heights they occupied for much of 2018, but they will sneak into the finals. Just.

Predicted finish: 8th
Key to success: Keeping Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Tohu Harris and particularly Blake Green on the field. The nature of the NRL means it's inevitable they'll miss some games, but too many will be catastrophic.
Reason for hope: Unmatched team ethos and attitude, solid defence, strike power out wide.
Reasons for fear: Inexperience in the spine, mid-size pack and lack of variety on attack.