After narrowly missing out on the finals in last season, the New Zealand Warriors will look to jump back into the top eight in 2021.
What to expect:
The New Zealand Warriors will be hoping to improve on their 8-12 record from last season.
New coach Nathan Brown will lead his side for the first time against the Titans, with the home game on the Central Coast the start of a favourable 2021 fixture for the Warriors.
The Warriors suit up against only one of 2020’s top four sides multiple times – premiers Melbourne Storm.
The Warriors had a strong recruiting period after the 2020 season, with seven new signings. The primary focus was to help add size to their pack, with Prop Addin Fonua-Blake being their most notable signing. Despite being surrounded by controversy on and off the field, Fonua-Blake adds stability to the front row, which will give the Warriors’ backline plenty of opportunity this season.
While the Warriors are hopeful they can return to Mount Smart in Auckland from round five, the current restrictions surrounding COVID-19 and travel may cause the side to remain on the Central Coast for the entirety of the season.
Many questions were raised about whether the side’s 2020 campaign was derailed by their inability to return home to New Zealand, however the side has had plenty of time to prepare for the possibility of living in Australia throughout the length of the season.
Keys to the season:
While his signing has quietly gone under the radar, Scottish international Euan Aitken is arguably one of the Warriors biggest acquisitions.
The Warriors were unable to contain oppositions scoring on the edge, and that’s where Aitken can come into the side and help plug the leak of points. Aitken finished 2020 with a tackle efficiency of 91.3 per cent.
Coach Brown has urged Aitken to become one of the best defensive centres in the competition this season, however, Aitken is also electric when trying to score.
The 25-year-old averaged 151 metres per game, which included 62 post-contact metres.
New Zealand Warriors 2021 Squad:
Leeson Ah Mau