The first two weeks of the 2019 NRL season for Aotearoa Warriors have perfectly encapsulated the journey we are all on as Warriors fans. After a strong win at Mt Smart over a battling Bulldogs team, the Warriors weren't really given a 'reality check' in their rather hefty loss to Wests Tigers. This was more a case of an example of what happens when you don't show up and no one reading this should need a 'reality check' about what happens when you finish with a 67 percent completion rate.
Pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong over in Sydney. One, like me, could view this as a beautiful thing as I'd rather go through these performances and results now, as opposed to a hot little win streak to start the season. For those who have just started reading the ol' Diary of an Aotearoa Warriors fan, I steer well clear of the week to week drama, over-reacting to a win here or loss there and at the forefront of every Diary entry is that this is a long fuckin' season.
There are issues to iron, rotations to sort out and while I'm feeling a wee bit of criticism in my loins directed coach Stephen Kearney's way, I'm happy to fall in favour of the coach. This mainly revolves around Sam Lisone, who I'm not overly convinced should be in the top-17 and right now I couldn't give two hoots about any suspension that comes Lisone's way because he probably played himself out of the top-17.
It feels like Kearney has been feeling Lisone out in these two rounds of footy. In the highly competitive middle forward stocks, Lisone was named on the bench twice and it's difficult to see him winning selection ahead of others in the future. This isn't just about Lisone though, there was some weird usage of various players throughout this game and as much of the reason why the Warriors lost this game can be put in the 'shit day, flush the dunny, learn and move on' bucket, this minutes thing is the most notable insight.
In round one Lachlan Burr played 28 minutes, then came back for a second stint of 24mins. Round two saw Burr play just the opening 32mins.
Round on saw Jazz Tevaga playing 54mins. In round two, despite Issac Luke playing more minutes than Nathaniel Roache (66mins vs 56mins), Tevaga played less minutes and well down on his typical usage (42mins).
Just weird stuff. Isaiah Papali'i made his comeback and got through 25mins, which clearly won't be the norm as we know that Papali'i is capable of more; this was also the first sighting of Papali'i dabbling in middle forward, then out on an edge.
Part of this long journey that an NRL season is, involves sussing out the best 17 players and/or wiggling through flows of availabilities. Last week Papali'i and Luke weren't available, this week Roache wasn't available and Kearney had to integrate Luke/Papali'i back into the mixer. These are niggly aspects to an already niggly period where Kearney is trying to figure out what various blokes can do.
My gut is telling me that Roache has a part to play this season, via his speed and direct running out of dummy half. I'd love to see Luke, Roache and Tevaga in the same team as they all offer something unique, yet we have to work towards that rotation and find out which of the big boppers can balance out having two smaller lads on the bench.
Even if it's not about trying to fit in Roache, maybe Adam Blair needs to play in the middle or maybe Papali'i will start ahead of Burr in the middle or who will come in for Lisone? My advice is to keep an open mind about the Warriors forward pack because there are various avenues to go down, thanks to the depth and variety of players in the squad. That's fabulous, it's great to have these options and we simply need to keep the bigger picture in mind as we move through these options - many of which will be forced by injury and suspension.
Everything else about this loss to the Tigers can bugger off. It was crappy viewing, genuinely terrible. Some referee calls that went against the Warriors were overshadowed by rotten luck like when Solomone Kata was left on the turf injured at the ruck, with the Warriors out-numbered on the short side. Or, the Warriors made double the amount of errors (14 vs 7) and conceded double the amount of penalties (8 vs 4) as the Tigers. That's a footy nightmare.
Quick note on the Warriors right edge, that was to some extent exposed by Robbie Farah; Farah was merely pouncing on good numbers. For both Corey Thompson's tries, the Warriors were a man short and whether Blake Green had Kata and David Fusitu'a outside him (first try) or just Fusitu'a (second try), Green had to commit to Farah and then those outside him followed.
Nothing about that is poor defence, other than have shitty numbers and a hooker who can A) scope it out and B) has the skills to execute. Despite what the commentators said, Fusitu'a had no option and was on an island twice.
At this point we come back to the root of the problem where the Warriors made 100 more tackles than the Tigers (389 vs 290). Any time you are doing that much defence, you're kinda fucked. The Warriors actually finished with a better tackle efficiency than the Tigers (88.4 vs 86.3 percent) and given the disparity in possession (44 vs 56 percent) the missed tackles/ineffective tackle numbers don't reflect that poorly on the Warriors.
Hence we flush the dunny and move on.
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Peace and love 27.