Things are finally starting to look up for the New Zealand Warriors.
With a win over the Gold Coast Titans last Friday bringing to an end a four match losing streak, and other results going their way in round eighteen, the Warriors now occupy sixth position on the ladder with twenty points.
This leaves them requiring a likely four wins from their final eight regular season matches. Certainly not beyond the realms of possibility for a side well stocked with high calibre talent.
And with only Lewis Brown on the injured list, out of order as it were, stability lies with the boys from Mt Smart.
This, no doubt, would have Coach, Ivan Cleary, looking on the brighter side of life as he has named an unchanged (with the exception of Brown) line up for this Friday night’s encounter with the Canterbury Bulldogs in Auckland.
In Brown’s place comes Joel Moon, who has spent much of 2011 lingering in reserve grade playing for the Auckland Vulcans, to partner Shaun Berrigan in the centres.
Now that they have steadied the ship, that solidity of having a stable line up can only prove beneficial as they forge ahead in their quest to cement a place amongst the September elite.
Taking on a Bulldog’s outfit that has won only three from their past eight may not be the easy assignment that it first appears. Easy beats you would expect them to be. But every so often they will produce a performance of high quality such as their win over the Tigers a number of weeks back.
And therein lies the problem for the Warriors. They don’t know which Bulldogs outfit will turn up on the night. Being on their guard mentally becomes even more vital than is usual.
Of their remaining eight matches, six can be said to very much on the winnable side. And this is definitely one of those. This means getting on top of their opposition in the opening quarter and not letting them back into the game.
They have the pack to achieve this. It may be inexperienced in some cases, but that young pack with the likes of Russell Packer and Sam Rapira are gaining more experience all the time- along with Aaron Herimia who plays his 50th nrl match and State of Origin rep, Jacob Lillyman, has reached his 50th for the club.
Along with Simon Mannering, who has found himself firmly ensconced back in the pack after his foray into the centres, they have the cattle to dominate up front.
If they can achieve this, then young superstar in the making, Shaun Johnson, who has been given another chance by Cleary despite a subpar performance against the Titans, will have a chance to join up with the likes of Feleti Mateo on the left edge and create a menace of himself.
That can only be a good thing for the Warriors chances come Friday.
Warriors side to play the Bulldogs on Friday night:
Kevin Locke, Bill Tupou, Joel Moon, Shaun Berrigan, Manu Vatuvei, James Maloney, Shaun Johnson, Russell Packer, Aaron Heremaia, Jacob Lillyman, Feleti Mateo, Simon Mannering(c), Michael Luck
Interchange: Lance Hohaia, Sam Rapira, Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor, Steve Rapira