SEASON PREVIEW: New Zealand Warriors
The New Zealand Warriors are preparing to begin their first season under new eyes, with the club going through a mass structural change for 2017.
Ricky Henry replaces Stacey Jones as the coach of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW side, while Steve Kearney and Grant Polkington have started roles as NRL and Holden Cup coaches respectively.
The major concern for the Warriors in 2017 was the difference between their home and away results, as they have been historically poor on the road.
Last season, they won eight games from 11 at home and if they can emulate that in all of their fixtures, the Warriors will certainly push for the minor premiership.
Henry is excited at the raw talent emerging from the Warriors ranks that will benefit his side, but also admits managing those players will be one of his most important challenges this year.
“The most exciting thing for me is players like Ata Hingano, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Bunty Afoa, who are all exciting kids that are coming through in the Warriors system,” Henry tells NSWRL.com.au.
“The most exciting thing is a lot of young kids coming through who I’m looking forward to help develop.
“Intrust Super Premiership NSW is a really tough competition, I think managing the players is really important, especially for us in all the travel we do,” Henry says.
“Teams that were in the finals [in the 2016 season] were the teams that were very consistent throughout the year; if you have got momentum on the run home you have to get hold of it and close out the year.
“I’d like to give ourselves a chance, we’ve obviously got a bit of work to do, it’s just a matter of converting on the paddock.”
2016 IN 16 WORDS OR LESS
Started well but dropped to one win in their last seven games to be knocked out.
THEIR BIG FIVE
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is an electrifying back who is one of the most exciting players in the competition. He was the best player for the Warriors in 2016 and will hope to lead the charge once again this year.
James Bell is a young back-rower who recently played in the Auckland Nines and will benefit from that experience.
Matt Allwood is one of the most experienced players in the competition with 18 NRL games to his name. He is a great attacking centre, but his greatest asset is his defence.
Mason Lino will be the control-man for the Warriors this year, as he was in 2016. He is a young halfback and a very good goal-kicker.
Toafofoa Sipley has NRL experience under his belt after playing two games last year, and deserved those call-ups as a fast front-rower and one of the better defenders in the competition.
Due to Stacey Jones’ promotion as one of Kearney’s assistant coaches, Ricky Henry has stepped up to take charge of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Warriors team.
He has been involved with the Warriors since 2008, having coached the Auckland Vulcans and has been an NRL assistant coach in that time.
He was the New Zealand under-18s coach in 2011 and 2012, and led the Warriors developmental squad from 2010-2012.
Henry ticks all the boxes to coach at this level, and he is keen to be a part of the Warriors structural change.
“It will definitely be challenging with the re-structuring of the club, we’re going in another direction,” Henry tells NSWRL.com.au.
“It will be awesome for me to get the opportunity to coach [Intrust Super Premiership] NSW Cup and the challenges that come with it, so I’m looking forward to it.
“Steve Kearney will come with new ideas and I’m really excited about that and looking forward to working alongside him and the rest of the coaching staff.”
“[I am] just looking forward to it and hopefully we give it a good shake this year, obviously the team and the players will enjoy playing the competition so it’s another big year for some young guys coming through to get some opportunities.”
The Warriors have not gained anyone besides Sam Cook at the Intrust Super Premiership NSW level, but the obvious gain for the club is Kieran Foran. They have lost players such as Shaun Lane, Henare Wells and Jonathan Wright, but will rely on the seemingly endless amount of talent emerging from the Holden Cup system.
Predicting where any Warriors side will finish is never an easy task, but they certainly have the squad to challenge for the premiership this year. If they can win more than half of their games on the road, there is no reason they won’t make the top four.