One of the NRL’s most wildly inconsistent sides are set to give their fans another rollercoaster ride in season 2013. Yes, it’s the Zealand Warriors folks!
Don’t expect to see the flashy Warriors of old under new coach Matt Elliott. A very conservative coach by nature, he employs a very structured approach to his coaching and looks to grind teams into submission rather than blow them off the park. How do I know this you ask? Well, I’m a Raiders fan and he cured my insomnia for many years with the way the Raiders played footy on his watch.
Former coach Ivan Cleary has left for the Panthers and has taken Lewis Brown with him, James Maloney has left for the Roosters and Micheal Luck has exited through retirement. Krisnan Inu left mid-season 2012 to join the Bulldogs. We expect to see Adrian Purtell on the team roster by seasons end. Dane Neilsen and Todd Lowrie have come over from the Melbourne Storm, Harry Seijka from the Panthers and Thomas Leuluai has re-joined the club from the English Super League.
Having said all that, there is a nucleus of talent for Elliott to work with, starting with Shaun Johnson. This kid has the goods. He has speed to burn, can kick and pass. What he needs is a dominant forward pack and outside backs who are finishers. Simon Mannering, Jacob Lillyman, Russel Packer and Ben Matulino are all still at the top of their game, especially Matulino, who had a great year in 2012 despite the Warriors missing the finals.
My concern for the Warriors forwards is Feleti Mateo. A truly gifted individual with the ball in hand but will Elliott allow him to continue to play his natural game? With his talent comes a high error rate and Elliott thrives on mistake free football and playing the percentages. This directly conflicts with Mateo who flies by the seat of his pants and is always looking offload in traffic. It will be an interesting situation, sure to unfold as the year progresses.
Of course there is also Manu Vatuvei and he is sure to cause Elliott high blood pressure, kidney stones, night sweats, well you get the rest. Big Manu can certainly finish a movement but is only likely to do so three times out of ten. He has ten thumbs and teams are certain to target his wing and pepper him with bombs whenever they get the chance.
The Warriors also have rising stars Ben Henry and Konrad Hurrell with the latter a destructive force. He is a cannonball when he gets going and should have the fans on the edge of their seats again in 2013. There is still a lot to look forward to and the Warriors are a team that can topple anyone on their day but consistency is the key and that has been a tall order for the Warriors.
I think it will be a tall order for the Warriors to make the top eight with a new coach on board, who isn’t flashy but maybe that’s what the Warriors need? Nonetheless, I see a season of rebuilding with flashes of brilliance and enough to infuriate their fans, but no finals footy in 2013.
2013 prediction 14th