Too Early For A Must Win?

In recent times, Warriors dates with Canberra have been more successful than a Todd Carney session on Tinder, but after a first round loss, and with the slippery Eels looming in Round 3, they’ll need to make sure they put in the appropriate groundwork on Sunday.

Maybe it’s too early in the season for overreactions, but, to me, this game really is a must-win. The way the draw falls this year, the Warriors need to capitalise on the relatively easy start to the season or they’ll be playing catch up for the rest of the year. Déjà vu anyone?

So, apart from self-imposed pressure, is there anything to worry about from the Raiders?

Watching this, you wouldn’t think so.

It’s worth pointing out that Canberra did win in Round 1, and in players like Jack Wighton and Josh Papalii, the Raiders do have enough talent on the roster to pose a threat. Sisa Waqa doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a quality winger, and Jarrod Croker loves scoring against the Warriors almost as much as Manu loves trampling Raiders.

But if the Warriors can’t get the two points here, both media and the casual fan will be sharpening their knives.

There were encouraging signs at Newcastle, especially in the forward pack and among the debutants, with Sam Lisone, Tui Lolohea and the metre-eating Hungry, Hungry Hippo, Albert Vete, among the Warriors’ best. Lolohea shifts to centre for this game to replace the injured Konrad Hurrell, and although it worries me for a youngster to have to play out of position every week, after that performance, he simply has to be on the field somewhere.

Lisone and the Hungry, Hungry Hippo relegate the incredibly unlucky Suaia Matagi to NSW Cup, and with players like Sebastine Ikahihifo, Sam Rapira, Charlie Gubb, Sione Lousi and John Palavi all fighting for positions, hopefully such competition will bring out the best in the whole forward pack.

Sam Tomkins returning to the backline is an obvious boost, although a lot will again ride on the shoulders of Shaun Johnson, and to a lesser degree, Chad Townsend. Both halves showed flashes of what they are capable of at the weekend but for the most part were disappointing. Townsend especially will need to improve, or risk being reshuffled out of the side, with either Tui Lolohea or Thomas Leuluai taking his place.

After shaking off the cobwebs in Round 1, if Townsend and Johnson can focus on doing all the little things right, the talent in this Warriors side should be enough to get their season back on track and keep the knockers at bay for at least another week.

NRL Warrior Prediction: Warriors by 14

What to watch for: A Jarrod Croker double is overshadowed by Tui Lolohea and Sam Lisone’s first NRL tries in a high-scoring Warriors win.

Warriors

1 Sam Tomkins
2 Jonathan Wright
3 Tuimoala Lolohea
4 Solomone Kata
5 Manu Vatuvei
6 Chad Townsend
7 Shaun Johnson
8 Jacob Lillyman
9 Thomas Leuluai
10 Ben Matulino
11 Bodene Thompson
12 Ryan Hoffman
13 Simon Mannering (c)
Interchange
14 Nathan Friend
15 Ben Henry
16 Sam Lisone
17 Albert Vete
18 Matthew Allwood

Raiders

1 Jack Wighton
2 Sisa Waqa
3 Jarrod Croker (c)
4 Edrick Lee
5 Jordan Rapana
6 Blake Austin
7 Mitchell Cornish
8 Josh Papalii
9 Josh Hodgson
10 Dane Tilse
11 Jarrad Kennedy
12 Iosia Soliola
13 Shaun Fensom
Interchange
14 Josh McCrone
15 Frank-Paul Nuuausala
16 Paul Vaughan
17 Luke Bateman

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