Another week, another casualty at the hands of Coach, Ivan Cleary’s, hard line approach to underperforming players.
Last week, he dropped three and made a multitude of positional changes.
This week, for the New Zealand Warrior’s fifth round match against the Sydney Rooster’s on Saturday, it is Russell Packer who suffers a trip back to the Warrior’s back-up team, the Auckland Vulcan’s.
His replacement, Jeremy Lattimore, comes onto the interchange bench, while Sam Rapira moves into the starting line-up, in an otherwise unchanged outfit.
For Packer, the harsh realities of increased player depth in the Auckland club this year, have hit home. No longer can he or his teammates expect to retain their positions with sub-standard performances.
Against Cronulla on Sunday, he struggled to make ground up the middle of the ruck against a hard uncompromising forward unit. Likewise in the previous week’s encounter with St George.
Two weeks in succession and something had to give. It did, his position in front row. Up against two strong forward packs he may have been, but then they are the benchmark and he hasn’t been up to scratch.
The changes for the Cronulla match worked a treat for Cleary. Gone, it appears, on his part, is a conservative approach to team selection.
With his playing staff now aware that poor performances will not be tolerated, supporters can look forward to a team on the improve.
Of which there is still plenty of room for. One such area for concern was some of the offloading. More precisely, when to offload. Feleti Mateo was the main culprit here. While he had his moments where his high risk antics came off, on the whole, many of his attempted offloads led to the handover of possession.
There would have been no thought given to dropping him as he has the potential to set this team alight on attack. Just a little more care and thought as to when he offloads, would do the trick.
His backline would certainly benefit from it. In particular boom fullback Glen Fishiiahi. He was a revelation against the Shark’s, scoring two tries in the Warrior’s first win of the season and certainly did more than enough to hold onto the spot ahead of Lance Hohaia. Yet, one had the feeling that the young man was weighed down somewhat by the pressure of the situation.
Of which he has admitted as much.
That he performed as he did, speaks volumes, not only for his mental toughness, but, also, for what he could achieve once he can relax and feel comfortable in the role.
With Simon Mannering and Shane Berrigan remaining in the centres, there is plenty of experience around Fishiiahi and young wing Bill Tupou to help guide them through the minefield that is first grade football.
Warrior's team to play Sydney Roosters at Mt Smart Stadium:
Glen Fisiiahi, Bill Tupou, Shaun Berrigan, Simon Mannering (captain) Krisnan Inu, Feleti Mateo, James Maloney, Sam Rapira, Aaron Heremaia, Jacob Lillyman, Lewis Brown, Ukuma Ta'ai, Micheal Luck. Interchange: Kevin Locke, Jeremy Latimore, Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor.