Diary Of An Aotearoa Warriors Fan: Let's Catch Up...


The surface level results of ... getting good results hasn't been in the Aotearoa Warriors favor, while the currents beneath the surface are clearly being disturbed by a twitchy Taniwha. Aotearoa Warriors were solid in losing to Melbourne Storm, doing far better than many expected given the situation and from a purely 'attitude' perspective, losing to the Storm could have been a better performance than losing to the Rabbitohs.

Of course, everything around the Anzac Day fixture was a bit weird and now we have news of the Warriors circling around Kodi Nikorima as a mid-season switch-a-roo. Chuck in Solomone Kata playing reserve grade after Patrick Herbert was impressive vs Storm, as was Peta Hiku at fullback and nothing feels all that simple at Mt Smart right now. Earlier in the season, I made a point to say that the Warriors 17 that is hunting a top-8 spot in the final rounds and then hopefully playing Finals footy, would be very different to the teams rolled out early in the season; the last few days are a lovely example of how that could play out.

Re: Stepheny Kearney doing what coaches do...

Coaches lie. Players lie. The media tries to find the truth and the media also lies. Believe with your eyes, not your ears.

Kearney is obviously in a bit of a jam as he tries to figure out the best Warriors team and then trying to get the best out of that team, as consistently as possible. What we saw against the Storm, was a reasonably clear sign that the players are responding to Kearney and that there is still signs of life in the core foundations of good Warriors footy under Kearney in how the Warriors defended. That's been my issue to start the season as the Warriors goal-line defence that impressed last season, has been absent this season.

On Anzac Day, we saw bits and pieces that are encouraging. I don't care for ref decisions and instead look to kinda mediocre kicking in the last 10 minutes that kept Melbourne in the contest. Chanel Harris-Tavita is a young half learning his craft and in the two best performances of the season, Harris-Tavita has has part-time halves alongside him and hasn't been able to shut a game down with that weight of responsibility. Super duper understandable and I really want to see Harris-Tavita combine with Green - no real need to get desperate in hunting Nikorima when Harris-Tavita and Green haven't been able to settle into their combo.

We are six rounds deep and there is no certified halves combo, nor has there been consistency in the hooking rotation. This has been forced by injuries, just kinda important to remember and we only need to look at the Rabbitohs (Damien Cook, Adam Reynolds, Cody Walker, Alex Johnston) or Storm (Cameron Smith, Brodie Croft, Cameron Munster, Jahrome Hughes) to see how beneficial having spine-consistency can be. The footy gods aren't gracing the Warriors with that at the moment.

Herbert was a treat at right centre, much like Adam Keighran looked the goods in round one ... that is to say that we wait for a bigger sample size. What sticks out though, is hunger and having been on the fringes of NRL footy at St George Illawara Dragons, you can tell that Herbert is hungry to be an NRL centre. Whether Kata has that same hunger, or desperation is an interesting question as Kata was one of the last Warriors who enjoyed a comfy ride under the old regime from Under 20s to NRL.

To level up on topical questions - does Kearney have the kahunas to stick with Herbert? Right now, no one can predict what Kearney is up to in terms of selection as he's a bit of a weirdo in that regard. This flows into Hiku and how he's used, whether he's going to get further opportunities at centre or whether he's a back up wing/fullback. Everything has been a bit crazy for Hiku lately and we all know that he's a versatile baller, which is handy right now and could be niggly when the backline is full.

I won't go too deep into the forward pack because I reckon they've done fairly well in general. We've now seen the Issac Luke/Jazz Tevaga/Nathaniel Roache trio in two games and as we saw against the Storm, it's not so much about figuring out dummy half antics and more about having mobile, nimble, skillful players in the team.

That trio may then require a bit more size on the bench, more oomph to handle different forward packs. Kearney doesn't seem all that keen on the size though as we have seen Sam Lisone get opportunities ahead of Chris Satae and Ligi Sao, then Leivaha Pulu. Satae and Sao are putting up rather beastly performances in reserve grade and in their loss to Bulldogs on the weekend, Satae had 13runs/136m and Sao had 11runs/150m. Both are averaging over 10m/run with Satae averaging 10.88m/run and Sao 10.95m/run.

There is room for shuffling in the forwards, just as we've seen room for shuffling in the backline. Stay fluid here, no one really knows what the best forward pack is for the Warriors at the moment and if we can get some consistency in the little bugger trio, then that allows for consistency in the rotations.

Righy, so Nikorima huh? Nikorima and Anthony Milford has never really felt like a halves combo that could thrive, as they are similar in how they operate. That is to say that from a Broncos perspective, they wouldn't be against Nikorima leaving and would probably have been low key pulling strings in the background.

If Nikorima is up for grabs, the Warriors would be foolish not to sniff around. Ideally this results in Nikorima and Green working together, with greater depth below them to handle any injuries etc. Unlike Nikorima/Milford, Nikorima could be better off with a half like Green steering the team around and the speed/footwork of Nikorima suits the general style of the Warriors as well.

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Peace and love 27.