26/02/2024

The New Zealand Warriors are going through a number of changes, with hope for the future. (Image: New Zealand Warriors/Twitter)

The New Zealand Warriors envisioned a better year than the one that played out after missing finals in the 2021 season. 

As the 2022 season progressed, the Warriors decided to confirm a number of changes, as players were bought out of their contracts, wanting to leave the club as it returns home for the 2023 season. 

Finishing position: 15th (six wins, 18 losses)

What worked?

When the Warriors were playing their best footy, they were able to dominate the middle third and open up the field for players with speed like Reece Walsh and Shaun Johnson when he wants to contribute to their running game. 

The use of the forward pack at its best allowed a neutral playing style to get everyone involved in different stages of the game.

With Johnson being able to play the game management halfback style, the Warriors allowed their younger talents in Chanel Harris-Tavita, Walsh and the many centre/wing combos to move the ball left to right. 

The game against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs late in the season showed their ceiling in attack.

They forced the Bulldogs to come up with points without the Matt Burton and Josh Addo-Carr kick and catch combo on the defensive end. 

This ball movement style allowed the forwards to design their shapes for the backline to run through space when they are playing in the opposition’s 20-metre zone to score. 

What didn’t?

The Warriors are a team that needs a few young talents around an experienced group, and more pure New Zealand native players in the club. 

This is what they have realised and have invested in with their signings in the last 12-18 months. 

With their goal of making the eight, being a rebuilding team with a lot of young talent who are not NRL ready yet makes getting to their goal more difficult than it should be.

Players wanting to go back to Australia and leave the Warriors mid-way through the season gave an indication that there were going to be struggles with the playing list.

The constant talk about which player was going to leave next and where to hurt the Warriors’ chances of having a consistent squad week to week.

Who impressed?

Wayde Egan was the most impressive player for this Warriors squad throughout the chaotic scenes from top to bottom of the organisation.

Playing 20 out of the 24 games for the club, Egan showed his ability to contribute to a multitude of aspects of the game. 

Defensively, he made 704 tackles at 92.6 per cent efficiency, being able to hold down the middle for the Warriors.

His running game has also been developing, running 991 metres this season, averaging 49 metres per game.

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In comparison to the 2021 season, Egan has improved all running metres by 200, on an increase of 10 metres per game.

Egan’s around-the-ruck play and consistency in his role have been a major positive in a difficult season for the game.

In the games he missed this season, the Warriors went 0-4, showing his value and impact as an underrated dummy-half.

Season highlight:

The Warriors managed to win three games in a row early in the season, beating the Tigers, Broncos and Cowboys in close fashion.

In these games, the Warriors showed promise in their ability to push through ugly games with a win at the end.

Shaun Johnson showed his ability to manage the offence and game on his terms in this stretch of games.

The middle forwards performed at a high level in the middle third, getting yardage and field position for the Warriors to set up their plays against these teams.

Their defence also helped with shifting momentum and building confidence as the game continued.

After the first month and a half in the season, it was expected the Warriors were going to be a team around the eight fighting for a finals spot.

They had shown they could get through 80 minutes of tough games with their defence helping them manage.

As well, the first game at home in front of the New Zealand fans this season was an event that couldn’t be missed.

Playing the Tigers in New Zealand, the Warriors were able to dominate with their defence, winning 22-2, not conceding a try in a physical 80-minute game.

With the 2023 season set to return to consistent games in New Zealand, this should hopefully ignite the Warriors to continue to play high-quality games in front of and for their fans.

Season lowlight:

The Warriors had two months throughout the season where they lost four games in a row. The first four-week streak, however, was a worse period of time than the second stretch.

Against the Sharks twice, Sea Eagles and Panthers, the Warriors conceded 151 points while only scoring 44 of their own.

With poor discipline, effort and poor decision-making offensively, the Warriors found their worst stretch of games this season around the halfway mark of the year.

Top off-season priority:

The Warriors must figure out a consistent spine and a go-to bench rotation. 

With a consistent squad, the Warriors have a better opportunity of growing their chemistry to be able to put each other in better positions to score consistently and get wins on the board in 2023.

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