It's not completely mandatory that Aotearoa Warriors go on a sizzling run of wins during this Origin period of the season, although the Warriors definitely need to start cashing in on solid performances and a home encounter against Melbourne Storm is the starter mark of this crucial stage to the season. Melbourne have named a full strength team, featuring their Origin battlers and even without them, there is an immense #KiwiNRL contingent on the Storm who are returning to Aotearoa.
When writing these things, I try to offer a point or two about how the Warriors can win based on their strengths and their opponents perceived weaknesses. In hosting the Storm however, it's merely about getting the job done and doing so by any means possible. Conditions tend to be fairly crap whenever the Storm come to Mt Smart, playing into their experience and footy nous, which is likely to be the case on Saturday evening.
I'm not sure how the Warriors go about ensuring they grab 2 points, that's not the point. This will most likely be a niggly affair and it's a case of the leaders in this team rolling out a classy performance to dictate the flow, tempo and positioning of the game. We haven't seen a top-tier Warriors spine too often this season, so having Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Kodi Nikorima, Blake Green and Issac Luke named to start enhances the vibe of them steering the Warriors around.
What we do have is a bit of a shuffle in the forward pack with Lachlan Burr dropping to the bench and Adam Blair starting, while Chris Satae comes on to the bench for Ligi Sao who picked up a suspension in reserve grade last weekend. This could be a crafty move from coach Stephen Kearney, given that Burr's only other start on the bench in the 11 games he's played this season, was one of his best performances.
That came in the loss to Manly Sea Eagles, which was a reasonably poor performance from the team. Burr played 37 minutes off the bench and that is one of two games in which Burr has played less than 40 minutes this season. Despite playing less than 40mins, Burr registered some of the best stats of any game he's played this season; 3 tackle busts is tied for the most Burr has had in a game, second most offloads with 2, tied for the fewest missed tackles with 1, second highest post contact metres with 41m and second most metres run with 118m.
Given that Burr played 37mins, you'd expect to have fewer missed tackles because you're attempting less tackles in less game time. That doesn't help explain why Burr had either his best game, or second best game in line breaks, tackle busts, offloads, post contact metres and total metres. Compare that to Burr's effort vs Broncos in the last game where he played 44mins and had no line breaks or tackle busts, only 16pcm, no offloads, 3 missed tackles and 54 running metres.
Burr has kinda hit a plateau as a starter. In the last five games, Burr has just 1 tackle bust, 3 offloads and has had less than 25pcm in all five games. Burr has run for less than 100m in each of his last four games and has essentially been a passenger with the footy, racking up plenty of tackles.
Hopefully Burr does in fact come off the bench and there is no late change to the starting team. Blair's skillset is better suited to starting, mopping up the middle and leading the wrestle of the Warriors to slow down the Storm's ruck. All of which was done rather effectively in the loss to Broncos, the difference was that Blair and Burr were doing the same job; all in on a more defensive middle presence.
This small change will hopefully allow for Burr to come on an have an impact. At his best, Burr offers energy and good mobility/speed to run angles around the ruck, with offloads which could be required in Jazz Tevaga's absence. Nothing about Burr's work as a starter has been efficient, ideally this will change with Burr offering a splash of intensity with every action.
The inclusion of Satae gives the Warriors a dynamic bench. Burr will run angles and offload, Bunty Afoa's ride doesn't have a foot brake let alone a hand brake and Satae should be fizzing for his opportunity. Satae has been demanding selection in reserve grade, playing 50+ minutes in each of his last seven games and putting up 3+ tackle busts in each of his last five games. 40+ post contact metres in every single Canterbury Cup game as well, suggesting that Satae is primed to snap up his opportunity and perhaps bump Sao down the pecking order.
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