ROUND ONE IS FINALLY HERE!!!!!!!!
As you may have guessed by the excess of exclamation marks, I’ve been waiting for this week for what feels like a long, long time.
The start of every season is like the start of a new relationship, where everything is fresh and exciting, and you start having these crazy, beautiful dreams every time you close your eyes. Wedding bells, premiership rings, Clive Churchill medals — anything is possible.
And that’s exactly where I was at the beginning of this week. Team-naming Tuesday came and went, and the future became a reality. Tui Lolohea, Solomone Kata, Albert Vete and Sam Lisone — a new batch of young stars ready to tear the NRL apart. Then there’s the experienced heads, both old and new — Hoffman, Mannering, Vatuvei, Leuluai, Friend, Matulino, Lillyman et al. — to steer the youngsters along the path to success. Throw in three game-breakers called Shaun Johnson, Sam Tomkins and Konrad Hurrell, and it seems like the perfect mix.
But (don’t pretend like you weren’t expecting a ‘but’ in here somewhere), then the doubt crept in, as it tends to do:
- We lost at Hunter Stadium last year (28–22 in what was actually a cracking game), a loss that started the slide which slipped the men from Mt Smart out of the Top 8.
- Newcastle’s side looks very strong — strong enough to leave out rising star and Kangaroo Sione Mata’utia, and, in Joseph Leilua and Dane Gagai, they’ve got one of the most threatening centre pairings on attack in the NRL.
- Tui Lolohea is a half/five eighth, but he’s playing out of position.
- How will the three NRL debutants (Lisone, Kata and Vete) handle the big occasion?
- Sam Tomkins is struggling with his fitness. If he’s out, who comes in (my guess would be Ken Maumalo, who thrived in the trials, but he’s just a rookie and new to the wing)?
- The Warriors are notoriously bad away from home.
- They’ve also been terribly slow starters in recent years.
But (hopefully you weren’t expecting the double ‘but’), then I wrote out the Warriors team list and thought ‘This team is awesome’. I could go on trying to break down tactics and individuals, analyse every minute of each trial game, but it all leads back to that same general point: The Knights won’t make the 8, and the Warriors will. Two points are here for the taking. I’m expecting big things this season and it’s time to let the footy do the talking.
NRL Warrior Tip: Warriors by 8.
For an extended round-by-round prediction for the Warriors season, click here.