The 2018 NRL premiership is at the halfway point and despite a few disappointing recent losses, it’s fair to say the 8-4 Warriors have exceeded expectations – individually and as a team.
TWL is taking the bye-week opportunity to run the rule over all 27 players used by Stephen Kearney so far this season, including comprehensive stats.
First up, the outside backs:
‘Fus’ has cemented his status as one of the NRL’s best finishers, equalling his career-best season tally of 12 tries – achieved in 24 games last year – with half a campaign to go. He’s clearly benefitting from playing outside Peta Hiku but his trademark mid-air putdowns and peerless aerial ability (including mad hops) have produced the bulk of his tries.
Scoring four doubles in the first eight rounds, the 23-year-old is the competition’s equal top try-scorer with Josh Addo-Carr.
Fusitu’a is doing a decent amount of work out his own end and there are few in the game better under the high ball. On the debit side, he is way out in front of his teammates error-wise, ranking fifth-worst in the competition amongst wingers with 14. All in all, though, the rangy flyer has been worth his weight in gold.
Played: 12 Tries: 12 Try Assists: 1 Line-breaks: 10 Tackle-breaks: 15 Offloads: 4 Errors: 14 Penalties Conceded: 1
Averages – Minutes: 80 Runs: 10.5 Running Metres: 97 Tackles: 2.2 Missed Tackles: 0.8
TWL Player Rating Average: 6.6
— League Live (@RLeagueLive) May 18, 2018
— 1 NEWS – Sport (@1NewsSportNZ) March 31, 2018
Arguably the most improved player in the NRL, undoubtedly the Warriors’ biggest surprise-packet, and one of the team’s most consistent performers.
A frequent liability since debuting in 2015, Big Ken has eliminated the errors from his game and has got his head around the defensive side of the game. Teams still target him but he is growing in confidence positionally and under the high ball week by week.
With the ball he’s been a beast – even reminiscent of ‘The Beast’, Manu Vatuvei. Maumalo ranks sixth in the NRL for running metres and third in the team for tackle-breaks. We’d love to see him on the plane to Denver for a Kiwis debut.
Close to the Warriors’ best on ground in wins over the Cowboys, Tigers and Eels, and currently sitting third in This Warriors Life’s Player of the Year Award standings. A modest tryscoring strike-rate is the only fault we can find.
Big Ken was our tip as the 2017 regular most likely to lose their spot. Now he’s our new favourite player and an integral part of the Warriors’ 2018 charge.
Played: 12 Tries: 3 Try Assists: 0 Line-breaks: 2 Tackle-breaks: 28 Offloads: 5 Errors: 7 Penalties Conceded: 2
Averages – Minutes: 80 Runs: 14.9 Running Metres: 139 Tackles: 2.8 Missed Tackles: 0.8
TWL Player Rating Average: 6.8
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) May 7, 2018
— NRL (@NRL) May 5, 2018
No player is currently arousing more debate amongst Warriors fans.
Hiku’s silky attacking skills have been a welcome addition at right centre, combining beautifully with Shaun Johnson, Tohu Harris and Fusitu’a, while he comes in for plenty of dirty work out of the Warriors’ end and ranks fifth in the competition for offloads.
But his defensive frailties have become increasingly frustrating – he sits fifth in the competition for missed tackles with 44, eight more than the next worst centre.
Under pressure from Gerard Beale for a starting centre spot, Hiku’s versatility has been applied in starts at fullback and five-eighth – with mixed results.
Also wore his shorts back to front in one game.
Played: 12 Tries: 2 Try Assists: 3 Line-breaks: 5 Tackle-breaks: 29 Offloads: 24 Errors: 4 Penalties Conceded: 2
Averages – Minutes: 80 Runs: 12.4 Running Metres: 109 Tackles: 13.2 Missed Tackles: 3.7
TWL Player Rating Average: 6.3
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) April 13, 2018
— Brendan Bradford (@1bbradfo) May 20, 2018
Vast improvement on a disappointing 2017 campaign. Sol hasn’t quite set the world on fire in attack as he did in 2015-16, but he’s always busy, sits second on the team’s tryscoring list and is averaging a line-break every two games.
It appears he’s worked hard on the defensive side of his game over the summer, boasting the equal-least missed tackles per game of centres that have played more than seven games this season.
There’s plenty of fans that would prefer Kata to make way for Beale and even Anthony Gelling, but ‘Mooks’ knows better than that.
Played: 10 Tries: 4 Try Assists: 2 Line-breaks: 5 Tackle-breaks: 18 Offloads: 4 Errors: 7 Penalties Conceded: 8
Averages – Minutes: 78.3 Runs: 10.8 Running Metres: 95 Tackles: 11.1 Missed Tackles: 0.7
Goalkicking: 0 goals from 1 attempt (0%)
TWL Player Rating Average: 6.7
— NRL (@NRL) May 26, 2018
The former Wigan centre began his NRL career with three cameos off the bench, culminating in a late-game shocker in the loss to the Broncos that we went on about for several days.
Gelling nevertheless managed to grab a start the following week with Kata out injury and atoned with an absolute blinder on both sides of the ball, scoring a try, running strongly all night and shutting down Euan Aitken in a stirring win over the previously unbeaten Dragons.
Exposed defensively by the Storm five days later and hasn’t been sighted in first grade since, but nice to know the rangy personality player is there if needed.
The Cameron Smith of rugby league social media.
Played: 5 Tries: 1 Try Assists: 0 Line-breaks: 2 Tackle-breaks: 7 Offloads: 5 Errors: 4 Penalties Conceded: 2
Averages – Minutes: 35.6 Runs: 6.6 Running Metres: 61 Tackles: 5.8 Missed Tackles: 1
TWL Player Rating Average: 4.6
— NRL (@NRL) April 20, 2018
Last weekend I realised every time I've played in a certain pair of undies my team has lost ❌This week I wore them for training instead and rolled my ankle during captains run. Time to break the curse …. pic.twitter.com/ZQdyzSv8W8
— Anthony Gelling (@AnthonyGelling) May 20, 2018
Returned from a broken leg in Round 11 after just one ISP hit-out and has barely put a foot wrong.
Particularly impressive in his comeback match against the Eels, troubling the opposition with his footwork and plugging the gaps left by Hiku on a weekly basis at right centre. Quiet in the big loss to the Rabbitohs.
Whether the 11-Test utility-back can forge a permanent spot at centre – given the back-three are entrenched – is the question on everyone’s lips. Beale could potentially find himself in a bench role as the season wears on, as he did during Cronulla’s 2016 premiership year.
Played: 2 Tries: 0 Try Assists: 0 Line-breaks: 1 Tackle-breaks: 5 Offloads: 2 Errors: 0 Penalties Conceded: 2
Averages – Minutes: 80 Runs: 10 Running Metres: 70 Tackles: 10 Missed Tackles: 1.5
TWL Player Rating Average: 6.75
— Newshub Sport (@NewshubSport) May 19, 2018
— Hayley Byrnes (@HayleyByrnes) May 18, 2018