As Blake Green anchors the play-making duties for Aotearoa Warriors, there is a nice splash of clarity with regards to who his halves partner will be this season. Clarity and Warriors halves may not appear to be two ideas aligned towards a successful NRL campaign, however while we don't know who will partner Green, we know that it's most likely going to be a left-footed youngster with a decent amount of lower grade honours behind them.
Whether it's Chanel Harris-Tavita or Adam Keighran, in general terms there aren't too many differences in how they operate or in how they will impact the play of the team. At this point, I'd also like to chuck Hayze Perham's name into the bucket as someone who could pop up anywhere in the Warriors backline this season and that could mean dabbling in the halves.
Perham won't play fullback as long as skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is there and after skipping Jersey Flegg footy to play reserve grade last season, Perham appears to be held in high regard at Mt Smart. I'm eager to see how the cookie crumbles with Perham and unlike Harris-Tavita and Keighran, Perham offers more of a razzle dazzle style that could suit the work of CEO Green.
Right now though, the clarity is in Harris-Tavita and Keighran. Both are predominantly left-sided players and this is where we can slide into the weeds of Mt Smart, because last season it was Green holding down the left edge while Shaun Johnson combined with Tohu Harris, Peta Hiku and David Fusitu'a on the right. These combinations were a low key surprise as I thought that Harris and Green would play together on the left edge, as they did for Melbourne Storm prior to Green's departure.
I highly doubt that Harris-Tavita/Keighran will be tasked with filling the hole left by Johnson on the right. That's a heck of a responsibility for a youngster in their debut campaign and the logical move would be to keep their role as similar as possible to that which they have performed in lower grades.
This is where we dive into the funk as how the Warriors halves play, could differ from the general trend of left and right halves. As the backline matua, Green is perfectly suited to swinging either side of the ruck and distributing the footy to where it needs. Confining Green to one edge, in this Warriors group seems like an immense waste of his skillset and while the alternative would show faith in Harris-Tavita/Keighran, perhaps boosting their confidence, banking on Green to step up his role is the safer option.
Playing this way, would still restrict Harris-Tavita/Keighran primarily to the left edge. Running the left edge and only having to worry about organising three-four players, would give either one of the youngsters time to acquaint themselves to NRL footy while still doing a job for the team.
Tuivasa-Sheck could be the player required to step up the most, even more than Green as he will be the key weapon swinging around to the left. With Johnson running the right edge via his ability to skip to the outside of defenders, Tuivasa-Sheck didn't need to add another body to the right edge. Those long-range tries set up by Johnson were notable for the lack of Warriors, just Johnson and his right edge comrades with space and isolated defenders to work with.
That's because Tuivasa-Sheck was sliding over to the left, where he often combined with Green to add some flair to the left edge attack. A work in progress best describes Tuivasa-Sheck's play-making from last season; a work in progress from a very solid base. If the Warriors opt to use Tuivasa-Sheck heavily down the left, we can safely assume that the supreme pro RTS has been drilling his left edge combinations.
Assuming Harris sticks to the right edge, his play-making potential has me fizzing with anticipation. We saw a lot of this, in conjunction with Johnson's work, last season and Harris has more than enough attacking skill to create/execute players without an x-factor half on his edge. Even more so if Peta Hiku is at right centre and these two will often, perhaps always have an attacking mismatch down the right. This will enable the Warriors right edge to sustain a threat, just a different attacking threat and thus absorbing the loss of Johnson - who sparked much of that attack last season.
Who knows how the Warriors will operate. That's in the observation basket for the first few rounds and whether it's Harris-Tavita or Keighran, won't have a huge, or any impact on how the Warriors play their footy. As young players who are in the same boat, the Warriors will design a style that enables either to thrive in a role that will start small and build as the season goes on.
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Peace and love 27.