Season Summary: The New Zealand Warriors secured a top-four position thanks to a solid season that saw them win 13 games. However, it was a disappointing end to the season for the Warriors, going down in the final two games of the regular season before bowing out of the finals series in straight sets. Their coach, Stacey Jones, believes the constant travel his team endured led to the end of season flat-patch.
Coach Stacey Jones says: ‘It was an up-and-down season. Our first eight games consistently home and away, and we were win, loss, win, loss. Then we had an eight-week block at home. We played five games in that eight-week block with three byes, and we picked up some consistent performances there. Then in our last eight weeks we had seven away games out of out last eight, and it was tough. We got some good results in our first three or four performances, and then we just fell away at the back end. It obviously showed in the finals and we really ran out of juice and bullets.”
Best Game: Due to the polarising home and away records for the Warriors this season, their best two games came in the form of two away wins against Newtown in Round 21 and the Wests Tigers in Round 23. The Jets game saw the Warriors’ win 30-28, but the victory secured their spot in the top eight. Two weeks later, the Warriors secured a crucial top-four position with a 20-16 win over the Wests Tigers.
Worst Game: Coming into round 13, the Warriors had a perfect record at home. The Canterbury Bulldogs, led by a four-try effort from Tyrone Phillips, completely shattered that record with a 52-8 onslaught.
Turning Point: The task of having three away games in a row led to the Warriors end-of-season slide – despite the fact they won two games in that period. Afterward, the Warriors failed to win another game in the 2015 season, indicating the strenuous travel affected them.
Standout Performers: Jones nominated John Palavi and David Bhana as the standout performers of 2015, playing the majority of matches and were the glue to the Warriors outfit. Palavi is the captain of the side, while Bhana was busy in defence all year – amassing 608 tackles.
Destined for the NRL: He played the final three games of the NRL season to fill in for the injured Warriors halves pairing Shaun Johnson and Chad Townsend, but Mason Lino will almost certainly add to these appearances in the distant future. He is a busy playmaker, is always involved in attack and a capable goal-kicker.
Future Focus: The Warriors Under 20s side is traditionally strong, reaching the 2015 Preliminary Final stage. Some of those players will move on from the Under 20s competition next year, meaning the Warriors VB NSW Cup side will bring in an influx of talent. Combined with their top-four capabilities this season, those players will hopefully drive the Warriors to go further in 2016.