2009 = Year of the Warriors

23 03 2009

I have been telling people for months that this year is the Warriors year. Of course I have been secretly hoping that for the last decade and a half but other than a couple of notable exceptions (especially 2002 when they made the Grand Final), I never really absolutely believed they had a legitimate chance to win the title. This year I absolutely believe.

We have pace, power, skill and flair with a perfect blend of youth, (Russell Packer, Joel Moon, Manu Vatuvei etc) and experience (most notably the incomparable Steve Price and Stacey Jones). The Warriors also have arguably the best backline in the NRL: the back three of Wade MacKinnon, Vatuvei and Denan Kemp are a match for anyone, both our centres are world class while in Joel Moon we have one of the best offseason buys – especially when he is paired beside Jones and the ever steady Nathan Fien. ┬áThe forward pack is direct and strong with some solid defensive stars in Jacob Lillyman, Michael Luck and Simon Mannering. The one thing the forwards lack is a true ball player like Sonny Bill Williams or Ali Lautiti but they compensate in other ways.

The first two games of the season proved the Warriors are going to be a true force this year. They steam rolled the Parramatta Eels last week, only letting the Eels back into it when the first game of the year style mistakes crept in, while yesterday they outlasted the Manly Sea Eagles (the defending champions no less!) in Brookvale. The Manly victory was especially sweet as they beat us 4 times last year.

Despite the fact that it was riddled with mistakes (it seems that the two referee system is meaning a superfast game that all teams are struggling to adjust to – as evidenced by the numerous mistakes on both sides) the game was a true classic. It was only decided when the greatest Warrior of them all, Stacey Jones, took over the game in the final 10 minutes. Until that point he had been drifting, not making any mistakes but when he flicked the switch and set up Brent Tate with a chip and regather it was like the Stacey of old had returned. It was hard to believe he hadn’t played for the Warriors in over three years, even harder to believe that he hadn’t even played in 18 months! And then he provided the perfect bomb for the match winning try.

With Stacey Jones back and able to drift in and out of games until needed (as illustrated yesterday) the Warriors are truly dangerous. In the NBA players like Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Dwayne Wade are regarded as clutch because they take over games when they’re on the line. Jones is the Warriors clutch player and they’re going to be hard to stop as a result.

The one problem I see is the effect he will have on two other integral Warriors. It was noticeable to me that when Jones came on Nathan Fien became skittish. It’s understandable really, Jones has returned to take his spot and while Fien is a more than able hooker he had made the halfback jersey his own. It almost seemed that Fien tried too hard to replicate what Jones was doing when it is not his game. I hope he settles down. The other player is the super sub Lance Hohaia. Hohaia is the perfect game changer off the bench but with Jones back is there room for him, Fien and Hohaia? Or does Ian Henderson, the regular hooker, drop out? Hohaia is injured for another couple of weeks but it will be interesting to see what happens.

Bring on the Broncos next week!


domestic bliss?

29 09 2008

Kirsty and I had a big weekend around the home. We spent Sunday scrubbing down the walls of our bedroom with Exit Mould. We’re going to paint the room later this year but since we’ve both been ill a fair bit lately we decided to clean it up now. Now if you’ve ever used Exit Mould you’ll know it’s some pretty noxious stuff. It seems to destroy your ability to taste and smell for a few days afterwards. I use it every so often on our shower box so I’m used to it … or so I thought.

It cleaned up the walls alright BUT we miscalculated the lingering effect of the Exit Mould. The room stinks like a gas chamber. Both K and I have headaches today, even after airing the room all afternoon. We might have to shift our bed elsewhere in the house.

Oh yeah, you might also have noticed I’ve started posting some NBA season previews. I’m going to try and do a preview for every team in the NBA, starting with the Atlantic Division then the Northwest Division then the Central Division and so on. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years so here’s my shot at it.

It gives me something to focus on after the evisceration that happened on Saturday night. Other than their goal kicking the Manly Sea Eagles played the perfect game of rugby league to destroy us 32 – 6. The New Zealand Warriors just weren’t allowed to play ball and suffered the consequences. Despite the final disappointing result the season was a success. To make it to the penultimate weekend is an achievement and if the new buys for next season (Denan Kemp and Joel Moon) continue to develop we have a good shot at making the Grand Final next year.

Warriors versus Sea Eagles preview

25 09 2008

The big question heading into Saturday night’s Preliminary Final between the Manly Sea Eagles and the NZ Warriors is whether the fairy tale will continue? Can the Warriors continue their stunning run through the NRL playoffs and reach their second Grand Final?

In many ways they have a better team than that 2002 model. Of course that 2002 team had the single greatest Warrior ever, Stacey Jones and numerous other attacking weapons like Ali Lautiti and Clinton Toopi but their defence was ropey and teams knew that if they could stay with the Warriors until the 60th minute there was a chance they could win. The 2008 Warriors on the other hand have proved their toughness and defensive expertise over the past 12 weeks, winning 10 including the historic upset over the defending champion Melbourne Storm.

As the season has gone on the Warriors have become a team you want to put away early. You don’t want them within striking distance as their defence, led by Michael Luck and Simon Mannering, is brutal and in Manu Vatuvei, Brent Tate, Jerome Ropati and Wade MacKinnon they possess some lethal finishers. Add to this their little guys led by Nathan Fien and brilliantly accentuated by Lance Hohaia, and the Warriors are a fearsome opponent.

The Manly Sea Eagles are a classy opponent and possess Matt Orford, the best player in the NRL this past season. They will be tough to beat. But this Warriors team has the feeling of a team of destiny. The game will be close and I’m half hoping/half expecting a thrilling come from behind victory.

Warriors by 2

awesome stuff

21 09 2008

Well that was awesome. The Warriors hammered the Roosters in the second half to win 30 – 13. I didn’t expect the game to end up being so one-sided especially after a first half which the Roosters dominated to end up leading 13 – 6. But the Warriors came out and scored 24 unanswered points and it’s them who will play the Manly Sea Eagles in next week’s preliminary final. Awesome stuff.

We’ve got a good shot at winning next week, we’ve won 10 out of 12 games plus we have Wade MacKinnon back from suspension. Manly beat us twice this year but we’re a better team now and I reckon its fifty fifty. Can’t wait!