SEASON REVIEW | NZ Warriors
Starting the season with a run of six-straight wins, the NZ Warriors began their charge towards a would-be maiden Intrust Super Premiership NSW title in style; scoring points all-but at will, all the while consolidating their chances of claiming the ultimate prize in the last weekend of September.
Rounding out the regular season in second, Ricky Henry’s outfit would feel the effects of the NRL side’s sway in the first week of the ISP NSW play-offs. Minus star halfback Mason Lino for the side’s Qualifying Final, the Warriors were trounced by eventual premiers, the Penrith Panthers.
The Week One defeat was offset by a big Semi Final win over the Knights – in accordance with Lino’s return – all before the side was narrowly bundled out of the title race, at the hands of the Minor Premiers, the Wyong Roos, in a 16-12 thriller at Leichhardt Oval.
The loss to the Roos was only the side’s seventh inside 27 matches played in 2017, and in a sign of their success throughout Rounds 1 to 25, the Warriors’ first defeat came in a surprise result when falling to the then-last placed Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles in Round 14.
Their Highlight Moment
Rarely do teams, at any level of Rugby League, celebrate earning only a sole point at the end of the 80 minutes. But that’s exactly what the Warriors did, when holding the Roos to a 26-all tie in Round 24. Trailing by 10 points with under 8 minutes to play at Morry Breen Oval, the Warriors salvaged a draw when all had looked lost, thanks largely to this successful conversion from Junior Pauga.
The result was the Warriors’ fourth draw of the season – in a year which saw a record nine matches end in a tie at the sound of the final siren*.
Simply Their Best!
Mason Lino was one of only two Warriors to earn a place in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Team of the Year, alongside prop Toafofoa Sipley.
A well-rounded talent with an incredibly large skill set, Lino has arguably the best kicking game in the competition. Steering the Warriors to the top four, the 23-year-old was rewarded for his consistency and flair in the form of five NRL games in 2017.
Room For Improvement
There are few criticisms of the ISP NSW Warriors’ efforts in 2017, however one must come in the form of their ability to turn tight finishes into wins.
Four draws beside their name this season, the Warriors would have been clear minor premiers so if they had converted those results into victories.
Exiting the competition in a nail-biting loss to the Roos, the Warriors lacked the vital blow needed to find their way into the Grand Final.
How It Will Be Remembered
Should have, would have, could have. The Warriors season got off to a flyer, and despite falling only one week short of appearing in the ISP NSW Grand Final, the NZ side would be disappointed they didn’t go on with the job after their early-season efforts.
*Wyong Roos v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Finals Week One inclusive, 26-all at full-time, eventually won by the Roos in extra-time.