Time To Deliver

Okay Warriors, time to show us what you’re made of. Forty-minute performances won’t cut it anymore. You’re better than that. We all know it. We’ve known it for a long time. We can see it in the 96% completion rate in the first half against the Eels. We can see it in this brilliant attacking move against the Broncos.

On paper, there aren’t many other sides I’d trade this Warriors’ team for, especially the forward pack. But if the Warriors want to be anything more than a mid-table team, they need to start exceeding expectations, reaching their potential and winning those games against sides that won’t be in the top 4 come September. This is another one of those matches. We’re a month into the season now. No more excuses. Time to deliver.

We’ve spent the last 6 weeks marvelling at the Blackcaps, we’ve had the Breakers and the Phoenix doing the business. Even the Hurricanes are winning. Have New Zealand sporting teams ever been as good as they are now? Your move, Warriors.

So what better place to make a statement than Melbourne. Before last year’s Anzac clash, the men from Mt Smart were in disarray: coach sacked, owners bickering in public and the team with a 2–5 record. Then David Fusitua did this:

And what better team to make a statement against than the Storm. Michael Witt’s last-minute try. Shaun Johnson and Sharky Brown combining to send us to the big dance. The Warriors don’t fear the Storm. They’ve done it before — time to do it again.

Turning our attention to the teams lining up on Monday, Ngani Laumape and Sebastine Ikahihifo return to the Warriors’ top side for the first time this year, replacing the terribly unfortunate Ben Henry (out for the season with a second ACL injury) and the unlucky Matt Allwood. Jonathan Wright survives the axe — for now at least. Whispers earlier in the week suggested Chad Townsend had trouble with his knee at training, but no word on the severity at this stage. I suspect if Chad is unfit to play, Leuluai will move to 6 and Nathan Friend to the starting dummy-half — something to monitor closer to game-time.

Whenever you talk about the Storm, attention inevitably turns to the Big 3 of Slater, Smith and Cronk, but, as I see it, shutting down Jesse Bromwich is just as important. Restrict his go-forward and those Cronk–Slater chip kicks or the inside–outside pet plays become much harder to execute. The battle between the two second-rows should also be interesting, with Kevin Proctor and Tohu Harris pushing for Kiwis jumpers and the Hoff-man returning to his former home for his 250th NRL game.

NRL Warrior prediction: With both teams coming off narrow losses, and considering previous history between the two sides, all signs point to a close game. I can see this one going either way, but will stick with Warriors by 4.

What to watch for: Ngani Laumape to have an instant impact coming out of the Warriors’ end. Manu Vatuvei leads the team on this front, almost always taking the first hit-up. Watch for Ngani to follow, looking for work and crashing it up on that second tackle.

Highlights from the last meeting:

Teams

WARRIORS

  1. Tui Lolohea
  2. Jonathan Wright
  3. Ngani Laumape
  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

Interchange

  1. Nathan Friend
  2. Sebastine Ikahihifo
  3. Sam Lisone
  4. Albert Vete
  5. Sione Lousi

MELBOURNE

  1. Billy Slater
  2. Young Tonumaipea
  3. Will Chambers
  4. Kurt Mann
  5. Marika Korobeite
  6. Blake Green
  7. Cooper Cronk
  8. Jesse Bromwich
  9. Cameron Smith
  10. Jordan McLean
  11. Kevin Proctor
  12. Tohu Harris
  13. Dale Finucane

Interchange

  1. Ryan Hinchcliffe
  2. Tim Glasby
  3. Dayne Weston
  4. Felisi Kaufusi
  5. Tom Learoyd-Lars
  6. Hymel Hunt
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