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.
Next up we unpick the performances of ‘the spine’ – the fullbacks, halves and hookers:
The Warriors’ best throughout the first half of 2018, among the top half-dozen players in the NRL this year, and going toe-to-toe with Kalyn Ponga for Dally M Fullback of the Year honours.
In reality, RTS isn’t doing too much different to last season, when he carried off the club’s Player of the Year gong. But the team’s vast improvement across the board means he is predominantly getting the ball on the front foot and in attacking situations, rather than endlessly digging the side out of trouble off his own goal-line.
He hasn’t scored less than a 6.5 in TWL’s player ratings and is routinely among the best afield in bad losses.
The skipper is eighth in the NRL for average run metres (second amongst fullbacks), 13th in the competition for tackle-breaks, and already has six try assists after notching a total of eight in 2017.
Tuivasa-Sheck’s positional play and clean-up work at the back has been first-rate, while he has pulled off a handful of contenders for try-saver of the year and is the second-least error-prone fullback in the NRL.
Perhaps most importantly, though, he has developed into an outstanding leader. Roger grappled with the captaincy admirably in difficult circumstances last year, but the 24-year-old’s confidence in the role has skyrocketed and he’s relishing it in 2018. Should be named the Kiwis’ new skipper in coming weeks and Dally M Captain of the Year if the Warriors make the eight.
Played: 11 Tries: 1 Try Assists: 6 Line-breaks: 7 Tackle-breaks: 41 Offloads: 19 Errors: 8 Penalties Conceded: 1
Averages – Minutes: 78.5 Runs: 15.3 Running Metres: 148 Tackles: 2.7 Missed Tackles: 1.1
TWL Player Rating Average: 7.7
We're one-third of the way through the 2018 #NRL season and our brilliant skipper leads the race for the inaugural #ThisWarriorsLife @NZWarriors Player of the Year award. #WarriorNation https://t.co/gxfAyCSOG4
— This Warriors Life (@thiswarriorslyf) April 30, 2018
A leading contender for the NRL’s unofficial ‘buy of the year’ crown for the second season in a row after arriving from Manly.
The level-headed playmaker the Warriors have been desperately seeking, Green steers the team around with a minimum of fuss and controls the tempo superbly, boasting a top-shelf all-round kicking game and excellent ball-playing instincts.
The veteran is the perfect halves foil for Shaun Johnson, though they have only paired up six times (for five wins) so far.
After a magnificent start to the year that catapulted his name into early NSW Origin conversations, Green has increasingly struggled during Johnson’s ongoing absence; he’ll benefit from the No.7’s return with less pressure to provide the spark and create scoring opportunities.
Played: 12 Tries: 1 Try Assists: 5 Line-breaks: 0 Tackle-breaks: 3 Offloads: 3 Errors: 9 Penalties Conceded: 7
Averages – Minutes: 79.1 Runs: 2 Running Metres: 16 Tackles: 15.8 Missed Tackles: 2.3
TWL Player Rating Average: 6.8
— NRL (@NRL) April 14, 2018
The halfback wizard has been brilliant when on the paddock in 2018 but he has only played half of the Warriors’ games so far, making it difficult to judge whether he has truly shed his inconsistent traits.
But there’s no doubt his six outings in the opening nine rounds represented by far his best start to an NRL campaign.
Two line-breaks and a mesmerising assist for David Fusitu’a in the crucial Round 1 win over Souths set the tone, while he papered over a largely ineffective performance in Canberra in Round 3 by singlehandedly stealing a win with two late field goals.
Johnson was close to the Warriors’ best in victories over the Cowboys and Tigers, with the loss to the Broncos – in which he still managed a brilliant assist and a solo try – his only outing that would be described as subpar. His defence has also improved markedly.
The last few weeks have emphasised Johnson’s importance to this Warriors side’s 2018 prospects; hopefully his looming return against Manly in Round 14 is a permanent one.
Played: 6 Tries: 2 Try Assists: 6 Line-breaks: 4 Tackle-breaks: 22 Offloads: 4 Errors: 5 Penalties Conceded: 3
Averages – Minutes: 78.5 Runs: 5.2 Running Metres: 48 Tackles: 14.3 Missed Tackles: 1.8
Goalkicking: 20 goals from 28 attempts (71%)
TWL Player Rating Average: 7.4
— NRL (@NRL) May 5, 2018
This is the form the Warriors and their fans envisaged when the club lured him back home at the end of 2015.
Two ordinary seasons – culminating in his axing from the New Zealand Test team – now seem like a lifetime ago after some of the most consistent and dynamic football of Luke’s long career.
Super-fit, enthusiastic and confident, Luke menaced teams out of dummy-half in the opening seven rounds and led the way in defence. Recently celebrating his 31st birthday, Luke is second behind Damien Cook for running metres amongst the NRL’s No.9s.
His performance in the momentous win over St George Illawarra – capped by a 40-20 and a vital try in the space of a minute – was one of his best ever and attracted TWL’s only 9 rating so far.
The effect of Luke absences, for most of the game against Melbourne and the entire loss to the Roosters, have been glaring. Meanwhile, despite obvious knee and shoulder problems, he carried a team missing RTS and Johnson to victory against Parramatta.
On the downside he is the second-most penalised player in the league, but Luke is rivalling Roger as the Warriors’ best across the first half of the campaign.
Played: 11 Tries: 3 Try Assists: 0 Line-breaks: 4 Tackle-breaks: 19 Offloads: 15 Errors: 9 Penalties Conceded: 17
Averages – Minutes: 69.4 Runs: 7.4 Running Metres: 70 Tackles: 25.8 Missed Tackles: 2.4
Goalkicking: 1 from 2 attempts (50%)
TWL Player Rating Average: 7.2
— NRL (@NRL) May 18, 2018
Having a back-up half of Lino’s quality is a luxury few other clubs can boast. And after filling in for some flatlining Warriors teams in previous seasons, seeing the 24-year-old play – and star – in a winning first-grade side has been one of 2018’s feelgood stories.
Absolutely outstanding in his first two outings against the Roosters and Dragons, Lino scored the Warriors’ first try in both boilovers – including a sizzling solo effort in the latter.
A debate erupted amongst pundits and fans over whether the Warriors were better off with Lino instead of the enigmatic Johnson in the No.7, but Lino’s subsequent mixed performances have put that argument to bed.
The lower-grade stalwart was exposed defensively by the Storm (though he did bounce back with two superb try assists) and averages the most missed tackles of any player in the NRL, while he struggled in the heavy loss to the Roosters and was hot and cold in the win over the Eels.
Still, an extremely valuable squad member and should be in the sights of NRL clubs less flush with blue-chip halves.
Played: 5 Tries: 2 Try Assists: 6 Line-breaks: 2 Tackle-breaks: 6 Offloads: 2 Errors: 7 Penalties Conceded: 5
Averages – Minutes: 78 Runs: 5 Running Metres: 37 Tackles: 17.2 Missed Tackles: 4.2
Goalkicking: 14 goals from 18 attempts (78%)
TWL Player Rating Average: 6.9
— NRL (@NRL) April 20, 2018
Only joining the club on the eve of the premiership, former Gold Coast utility Lawton has made the most of his top-grade chances so far.
The 22-year-old, who suffered a shocking broken leg on NRL debut for the Titans at Mount Smart Stadium in 2016, enjoyed a dream dummy-half introduction with the Warriors at the same ground courtesy of two late, match-sealing try off the bench against the Tigers in Round 9.
He was kept quiet in a badly beaten side after starting at hooker against the Roosters but made a real impact from the pine in a similar defeat to the Rabbitohs in Round 12. Rock-solid in defence, not missing a single tackle in nearly 100 minutes in first grade this year.
Jazz Tevaga’s ability to plug the gap at hooker if needed may mean there’s no room on the bench for Lawton in a full-strength Warriors side, but his superior work at dummy-half, genuine spark and ability to also play at centre or in the halves make him an attractive proposition for Kearney.
Played: 3 Tries: 2 Try Assists: 0 Line-breaks: 2 Tackle-breaks: 11 Offloads: 1 Errors: 1 Penalties Conceded: 2
Averages – Minutes: 32.7 Runs: 5 Running Metres: 48 Tackles: 19 Missed Tackles: 0
TWL Player Rating Average: 6.5
A try on debut with the @NZWarriors.
— NRL (@NRL) May 5, 2018