In the lead up to the 2014 VB NSW Cup season, we will shine the spotlight on all 13 competing teams to see how they are shaping up for the year ahead.
Today we take a look at the Warriors.
Head Coach: Rohan Smith
Home Ground: Mt Smart Stadium
Year Entered Competition: 2014
2013 Result: 6th (Auckland Vulcans) - (12 wins, 1 draw and 11 losses)
2014 Key Signings: Chad Townsend (Cronulla Sharks), Jason Bukuya (Cronulla Sharks) & Sam Tomkins (Wigan Warriors).
After competing in the VB NSW Cup under the banner of the Auckland Vulcans for the past six seasons, the Warriors have decided to bring things in house as of 2014.
The Warriors club in general is going through a really exciting phase presently both on and off the park, and with the club a commercial success and the envy of many other NRL franchises, the decision to field a standalone VB NSW Cup outfit should only further push their claims of being one of the more professional outfits in the game.
Not only will the Warriors nation welcome a new side to the park in 2014, they will also welcome back a former assistant coach, who has returned to take over the reins of a side that has all of the ingredients of being a major Premiership contender.
Rohan Smith, perhaps best known to some as the son of legendary NRL coach, Brian Smith, has returned to the club where he cut his teeth as an assistant under then head coach, Daniel Anderson.
Smith has since spent time in roles with the Knights, Roosters and Panthers as well as also helping Tonga to establish itself as a burgeoning league power in the Pacific.
Under no illusions as to the job that lay in front of him, Smith seems genuinely excited about the task at hand.
“It’s been good to get back to where it all began for me,” said Smith.
“The club has grown a lot since I was last here… We now have the great facilities to go with the great staff, that is the backbone of any quality sporting franchise.”
The club has been one of the quietest in the NRL in terms of off season purchases, with the Warriors appearing to be taking the approach of nurturing from within as opposed to trying to buy a title.
Given the success of their Holden Cup side in recent seasons, this doesn’t come as a total shock as there is clearly a lot of young talent within the Warriors system, and Smith’s job will be to nurture that talent and help them take the step between the U20’s and the NRL.
“While working with Garth Brennan at the Panthers last year I got to see a great deal of the young Warriors talent first hand.
“Players like David Fusitua and Raymond Faitala-Mariner got a taste of the VB NSW Cup last season and our role with the VB NSW Cup side this year is to challenge and progress these players towards the NRL as quickly as possible… and once they make it there, we want them to thrive, not just survive.”
According to Smith, the Warriors off/pre-season training has been coming along well with a number of players across all three grades really impressing the coaching staff.
As for his ambitions in relation to what their VB NSW Cup outfit can achieve in 2014, his answer was three fold.
“Firstly we will be looking for our players to provide plenty of competition to the top squad for NRL places and hopefully progress some of our young talent through to that grade in the process… Secondly, we will continue to look to give some of our U20’s exposure at this level to continue to further their development and lastly we are aiming for this side to be tough, disciplined and a smart team on both sides of the ball that is hard to beat week in week out both here at home and also away.”
Now that the Warriors have taken back control of their VB NSW Cup, Warriors fans will be treated to a host of triple headers at Mt Smart Stadium and will also see their team in action at Eden Park in Rd 2 when they take on the Cutters and then once again in Rd 6 and Rd 9 when they face the Bulldogs and Mounties respectively.