Even though I spew up positive optimism regarding Aotearoa Warriors, especially in the junior ranks now that a few changes have been made, it's impossible to ignore the fact that all three Warriors teams sit in the lower half of their competition ladders. There is no Canterbuy Cup footy this weekend with the Residents game going down in Australia, while the Jersey Flegg team is away to face Sydney Roosters after a loss to Newcastle Knights last week.
The reserves were the only team to get a win over Newcastle and that has them 10th of 12 (3-5) and the Flegg team are 10th of 14 (3-3). With the NRL team 12th (3-5), it's quite clear that there is a wee bit of a rot at Mt Smart and that's a bummer considering that I believe all the pieces are in place for a strong club across all three grades. That all three teams are struggling over this opening stanza, could still be because of a settling in period with reserves coach Nathan Cayless and Flegg coach Greg Boulous in their first season with the Warriors, but this obviously isn't desirable.
If anyone is talking to you about how the NRL Warriors are struggling, bounce back to say that the hole club is struggling. When there is such an undeniable stench of mediocrity, we have to take note and as the Diary Of A Warriors Fan guy, I'm excessively intrigued as to how the Warriors as a club approach this middle stage of the season and try get out of this hole that they have found themselves in.
Coach Boulous has again named a strong Flegg team to face the Roosters tomorrow...
Fullback: Emanuel Tuimavave-Gerrard.
Wings: Seletino Ravutaumada, Edward Kosi.
Centres: Patrick Elia, Kayal Iro.
Halves: Paul Turner, Sione Moala.
Middles: Phillip Makatoa, Wesley Veikoso, Tyler Slade.
Edges: Brody Tamarua, Tom Ale.
Hooker: Sean Mullany.
Bench: Temple Kalepo, Isaiah Vagana, Junior Pua, Jyris Glamuzina - Michael Lemafa.
Turner was a late call up to reserve grade where he played fullback last week, which resulted in Moala coming into the halves. This week Casey Smith is out and it's the Tuner/Moala combo and Phillip Makatoa slides back down to Flegg with no Canterbury Cup this weekend, starting at prop.
Makatoa is putting up solid numbers in reserve grade for a youngster who still Flegg eligible. Last week Makatoa played 53mins off the bench and along with a try, he had 9runs/81m, 1 line break, 3 tackle busts and 90.9% tackle efficiency on 30 tackles. Having played five Canterbury Cup games, Makatoa should offer a lovely boost to the Flegg team whenever he drops down.
The Warriors also celebrated their own 'Future Warriors' fixture that was played a couple weeks ago, between an Auckland Vulcans selection and a Future Warriors team. It's a bit weird when the club talks up their own stuff and reading the Warriors report on the fixture, it felt like the club was making a large effort to ensure that everyone knows about their development system.
There is also the yarns about showing how much talent is in Aotearoa and well, no shit. For more than 10 years, Australian NRL clubs have come to Aotearoa and enjoyed the buffet of footy talent on offer while the Warriors sat comfy in their Auckland bubble. From my #KiwiNRL perspective, there is an abundance of players from all corners of Aotearoa with Australian clubs and an easy example is Brisbane Broncos who signed Jordan Riki from Christchurch and Rory Ferguson from Southland.
So for the Warriors to come out and portray this image of them doing great things in terms of recruiting from around Aotearoa and providing the opportunities, is weird. Don't get me wrong, massive improvements have been made, but the Warriors are late to the takeover.
Looking through the player list for this fixture, I few wrinkles popped into my head...
Schoolboy 1st 15 rugby union is providing immense rugby league funk. Look around the NRL and you'll find most Australian clubs have at least one player from 1st 15 rugby union, while the 'Future Warriors' team had numerous lads from big rugby schools. I do believe that most either have strong rugby league backgrounds or, have been signed by the Warriors and then placed in those more 'prestigious' schools. The point here is that the schools are providing rugby league talent, which is funny given how much effort the schools put into rugby union.
The strong Rotorua connection is still present. Three players from Rotorua were unavailable and another from Pikiao did play, to go with Hayze Perham, Tom Ale and Selestino Ravutaumada who were all recruited from Rotorua.
Two players from the South Island, both from Christchurch. That's pretty good considering many of the best South Island talent would already be aligned with an NRL club.
It would have been super interesting to see how many of the Auckland Vulcans team are aligned with other NRL clubs. Some of the Vulcans players are already in the Warriors academy and with 19 players named in that team, I'd be fairly confident in suggesting that some are already signed to Australian clubs.
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Peace and love 27.