Diary Of An Aotearoa Warriors Fan: Last Minute Preview Notes (vs Bulldogs)

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Peace and love. Focus on the peace and love within you. That'll naturally come out and shine brightly, only after you find peace and love within yourself.

Game day folks. Aotearoa Warriors get their 2019 NRL season underway today against Canterbury Bulldogs and I've chucked together some notes to enhance your viewing experience. Check out our other previews across the various channels...

Alignment. How do the Warriors line up in terms of what side of the field players operate on? This starts with Blake Green and Adam Keighran - remember that last season Shaun Johnson lived on the right edge, with Green on the left. They shared the footy equally and were left to lead either edge's attack, which obviously can't be the case this season as Keighran's making his debut this evening.

Will Green slide either side of the ruck at first-receiver?

Keighran won't be afforded that freedom and will most likely stick to one edge. Then, if Green is free to roam and direct traffic, look for guys like Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Tohu Harris or Adam Blair and Peta Hiku to play key roles in the attack of one of the edges. That sounds a bit complicated as I wrote it, so to simplify...

If Keighran plays on one edge and Green roams, who is the key pair of hands on the other edge?

We then need to suss what edge Hiku, Blair, Harris and Kata are playing on. My hunch is that Harris and Hiku will be on the left with Keighran, leaving Blair and Kata to work primarily with Green on the right - thus I low key reckon the Warriors will generally stick to left/right halves.

Harris and Hiku have the skill to make up for Keighran's lack of experience. Harris can do a bodyguard job on Keighran and we have to expect that Hiku will be better defensively after a full summer of preparation.

How Tuivasa-Sheck chimes in will be of great interest. Last season his play-making was a bit clunky and while he is exceptional in other aspects of the fullback craft, he doesn't quite have the silky last-pass hands yet. There are ways around this and Tuivasa-Sheck doesn't need that play-making ability if the attacking scheme zones in on his running game.

Where Tuivasa-Sheck pops up and what trends emerge throughout the game when he gets his mits on the footy in good ball - run or pass? What kind of pass?

I'm fizzing to see Agnatius Paasi and Bunty Afoa unleashed. If you follow my scribbles, you know that the Warriors have established a culture of player development and the overlooked narrative of the summer has been the idea that Paasi and Afoa could be a lot better in 2019.

They were low key lovely last season. Mobile, nimble and fuckin' aggressive. There is nothing like the vibe at Mt Smart when a big bopper is going hundies and this vibe now revolves around Paasi and Afoa.

Sam Lisone is playing for his future. His future in terms of minutes over the next few weeks and then, extrapolate that out further to see that Lisone is playing to stay relevant in the NRL. Keep a close eye on Lisone when he enters the game. This is a unique situation because it could go either way; Lisone could start to cash in on his potential, or he could drift out of the top-17 and into oblivion.

Will Nathaniel Roache kick out of dummy half?

How many minutes will Roache play?

Who is going to lead the offloads and be the passing forward? Blair was that focal point playing as a middle forward and if Jazz Tevaga plays dummy half, then we're looking at Paasi, Afoa, Lachlan Burr, Leeson Ah Mau and Lisone as the passing forwards. Lisone has shown that wrinkle to his game, but it's all a bit uncertain in this area.

The passing forward is crucial, hence why I raise the point. This is what Tevaga offers and having the balance of a first-receiving forward running and passing, creates space outside. Harris and Blair have great passing/offloads, so that helps the play-making out on the edges but a few middle forwards will need to get their hands dirty in terms of passing.

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Peace and love 27.