Club: NZ Warriors
Record: 12-11-1 (+39)
Players Used in 2014: 43
Season Highlight: This sides role in the education of a number of talented youngsters who eventually went on to claim the Holden Cup title
Season Lowlight: Losing four in a row from Round’s 21-24 and going from an almost guaranteed top four spot to just scraping into the finals as a result
Summary: The NZ Warriors took back ownership of their VB NSW Cup side in 2014 after their previous affiliation with the Auckland Vulcans ceased at the end of the 2013 season.
The Vulcans came close to claiming a title back in 2011 when they went down to the Bulldogs by a whisker in the Grand Final and despite a good association with the NRL club, the Warriors decided to follow in the footsteps of the likes of the Panthers, by bringing their feeder club back in house.
And with Rohan Smith at the helm as coach the Warriors were touted in the pre-season by many as one of the teams to beat in 2014. At times they did look to have genuine premiership credentials, however a late season fade out saw them almost miss the finals altogether.
After an indifferent start to the year that didn’t see them win until Round 5, the Warriors clicked into gear and established themselves within the top eight for the remainder of the season.
Ironically enough, lots of the Warriors success in 2014 was based around their stout defensive record, which was ranked third in the competition. In years gone past, the Warriors or Vulcans as they were known, were better known for their attacking prowess rather than their ability to deny the opposition, but under the tutelage of Rohan Smith, there was clearly a steelier resolve within the side than in years gone past.
Eight of the Warriors Premiership winning Holden Cup side had spent time in the NZ Warriors VB NSW Cup set up at some stage in 2014, once again reinforcing the importance and benefit gained from exposing young talent to open age football. The Panthers used a similar strategy in 2013 when they claimed the Holden Cup title, and then a number of those players have starred in the Panthers 2014 VB NSW Cup success as a result.
Exciting young talent such as Ken Maumalo, Solomone Kata and Tuimoala Lolohea combined well with more established players like Steve Waetford, Charlie Gubb and Siliva Havili, to lead the side through to a week two finals finish.
One change that is certain for 2015 will be in the coaches’ box after it was announced that Rohan Smith would be joining the Gold Coast Titans in 2015 as an NRL Assistant to Neil Henry. Smith’s spot looks set to be taken by Stacey Jones, who managed to lead the Warriors Holden Cup side to premiership glory in 2014. And with a very young roster at his disposal, the sky is the limit for the Warriors in 2015.
Conclusion: Not a bad season but did promise more than a week two finals finish at times. Still will be pleased with the role it played in the clubs Holden Cup success and look set for a big 2015.