New Zealand Warriors haven’t fulfilled their potential for a number of years now. One Finals appearance in the past few years hasn’t been good enough, but this year could be the year they finally do thrive.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will, as he has been for several years now, be key if they are to do well this year. He makes so many metres up the middle with genuine hard work but also has an incredible step and possesses plenty of skill with the ball.
He works well with the Warriors’ two wingers, David Fusitu’a and Ken Maumalo, who are both excellent metre eaters as well.
There is plenty of experience in the Warriors pack. Their backrow pairing of Adam Blair and Tohu Harris both know what it’s like to play in big games and have amassed over 450 NRL games between them.
They also have plenty of young flair in the likes of Chanel Harris-Tavita who adds versatility and did admirably last year when called upon to fill in, mainly in the halves.
He’ll have to play second fiddle largely to Kodi Nikorima and Blake Green in 2020 but will be more than capable of deputising in the stand-off role with his excellent running game.
Issac Luke has left the club to join St George Illawarra Dragons so Wayde Egan has been brought in from Penrith Panthers to fill that particular void, in one of the few changes to the Warriors’ roster heading into the new season.
Coach: Stephen Kearney
Stephen Kearney (above) is in a fairly unusual scenario. Before coaching New Zealand Warriors, he’d already had an eight-year spell as the country’s national coach.
He ended his association with the Kiwis in 2016, joining the Warriors for 2017 and has been in charge of the club since then.
The former second row forward played for the Warriors in the early 00s before joining Hull FC for the 2005 campaign, in which they won the Challenge Cup, but was best known for his 45 caps for his country.
Star Player: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (pictured, top) won the Dally M Medal in 2018 and is the reigning Golden Boot winner for his performances for New Zealand against Great Britain during the autumn.
The fullback’s performances are pivotal for the Warriors if they are to make a charge towards the playoffs. With Shaun Johnson long gone, plenty of the creative flair, as well as the hard yards up the middle, fall to Tuivasa-Sheck.
Rugby League World Predicts: 13th
First published in Rugby League World, Issue 467 (March 2020)