WARRIORS HALFWAY REPORT: MIDDLE FORWARDS

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 we appraise the performance of the Warriors’ stacked contingent of forwards who have been doing the grunt work up the middle:

 

BUNTY AFOA

Rivalling Ken Maumalo as the most improved player in the Warriors’ squad.

Afoa looked weary towards the end of 2017 – his first full season of NRL footy – but he has emphatically proven himself as an NRL-grade player this year.

As well as having a high work-rate with and without the ball, Afoa is fifth amongst the competition’s props for metres per run (10) his error count is low (one every four games). His tackle effectiveness is also great.

Kearney keeps switching him between front-row starter and the bench; he was outstanding off the pine at the start of the season but has been noticeably more effective when starting over the past six weeks.

A Kiwis smoky, should the Samoan international decide to pledge his allegiance to the black-and-white jumper.

Played: 12  Tries:Try Assists:Line-breaks:Tackle-breaks: 14  Offloads:Errors: Penalties Conceded: 4

Averages – Minutes: 41  Runs: 9.1  Running Metres: 91  Tackles: 24.4  Missed Tackles: 0.9

TWL Player Rating Average: 7

 

AGNATIUS PAASI

Proving excellent value after returning to the club from the Gold Coast Titans in the offseason. Missed the first two rounds but has been a permanent fixture in the starting pack since.

One of only six players in the NRL to have played 10 games this season without making an error, the 111kg Paasi’s headlong charges have been a feature in a Warriors pack otherwise lacking genuine size.

The team looks better when he’s on the field.

Played: 10  Tries:Try Assists:Line-breaks:Tackle-breaks: 12  Offloads: 14  Errors: Penalties Conceded: 3

Averages – Minutes: 35.8  Runs: 10.2  Running Metres: 86  Tackles: 19.6  Missed Tackles: 1.6

TWL Player Rating Average: 6.7

 

ADAM BLAIR

It’s hard to know where to start with appraising the enigmatic Adam Blair’s form since joining the Warriors.

On one hand, he’s a leader – no question about that. His presence appears to lift the side and his contribution to the one-percenters like line-speed and his talk are pluses, and his defensive work-rate is decent enough.

But the load he is shouldering with the ball, as a starting prop in the first three rounds and at lock since, is nowhere near enough. Despite averaging big minutes, Blair ranks at the bottom of the NRL’s No.13s for runs and run metres per game. In five games he has run the ball five times or less – including a three-run contribution against the Raiders, a game in which he was sin-binned.

When the Warriors are on attack, he can’t get his hands on the ball quick or often enough – with mixed results – but he’s shirking his work when the team is doing the hard graft out of their own end.

Blair is never going to put up Taumalolo-like numbers, but in his three seasons with the Broncos he averaged 95, 86 and 85 metres per game. What he’s producing at present isn’t cutting the mustard for a player with his price-tag and it’s surprising he hasn’t been called out on it on a wider forum.

Played: 12  Tries:Try Assists:Line-breaks:Tackle-breaks:Offloads: 16  Errors: Penalties Conceded: 6

Averages – Minutes: 58.5  Runs: 6.8  Running Metres: 56  Tackles: 23.8  Missed Tackles: 1.6

TWL Player Rating Average: 6

 

JAZZ TEVAGA

After playing just four games in the top flight last season and missing the first two games of 2018, Tevaga has been one of the Warriors’ real surprise packets off the bench, bringing outstanding energy and work-rate on both sides of the ball.

Kearney is getting big minutes out of the lionhearted utility, who plays above his weight week in, week out. And he’s responding with 30-plus tackles per game and a willingness to mix it up with the ball.

Can overplay his hand a bit – as evidenced by a high error and penalty count – but Tevaga has cemented a spot in the 17. Stints at dummy-half have confirmed him as a stopgap hooker at best, however.

He’ll miss the Round 14 assignment in Christchurch after having a cancerous growth removed from his shoulder.

Played:Tries:Try Assists:Line-breaks:Tackle-breaks:Offloads: 11  Errors: Penalties Conceded: 7

Averages – Minutes: 52.8  Runs: 9.2  Running Metres: 69  Tackles: 30.4  Missed Tackles: 1.6

TWL Player Rating Average: 6.6

 

JAMES GAVET

The Warriors’ standout front-rower in 2017, Gavet put up good attacking numbers either side of a five-game injury break.

But his running game doesn’t quite have the same ferocious impact and his defence the sting that it had last year – kind of like how Ben Matulino went off the boil at the Warriors in 2016-17.

The side needs him to bring back the fear factor, particularly if Gavet’s going to hold down a starting spot.

Played:Tries:Try Assists:Line-breaks:Tackle-breaks:Offloads: 3 Errors: Penalties Conceded: 3

Averages – Minutes: 35.3  Runs: 10  Running Metres: 95  Tackles: 15.6  Missed Tackles: 1.9

TWL Player Rating Average: 6.4

 

SAM LISONE

After playing all but one game in 2017, this year started superbly for Lisone as he bagged his maiden NRL try in his 64th appearance in the Round 1 upset of Souths. Sat out Round 4 with a suspension but came straight back into the side, before patience for his increasingly anonymous displays ran out.

Lisone has been coming off the bench for reserve grade for the past two weeks and needs to put in some big performances at that level to climb back up the Warriors’ front-row pecking order. 

Played:Tries:Try Assists:Line-breaks:Tackle-breaks:Offloads:Errors: Penalties Conceded: 0

Averages – Minutes: 28.8  Runs: Running Metres: 59  Tackles: 15  Missed Tackles: 0.7

TWL Player Rating Average: 5.9

 

CHRIS SATAE

The hulking Satae was blooded late last year and has come off the bench in wins over the Roosters and Eels, and the loss to the Rabbitohs. Retains his place this weekend for the clash with the Sea Eagles.

Used for only short stints but has made an impact on each occasion, particularly as a robust ball-runner. Averages only 1.8 runs less than Adam Blair despite being afforded a quarter of Blair’s minutes.

Unfortunately for the Warriors, it seems his promise has been spotted by the Storm, who have reportedly snapped Satae up on a three-year deal – no doubt a flow-on effect of the Warriors’ decision to throw money at Leeson Ah Mau.

Played:Tries:Try Assists:Line-breaks:Tackle-breaks:Offloads:Errors: Penalties Conceded: 0

Averages – Minutes: 15  Runs: Running Metres: 46  Tackles: 10  Missed Tackles: 1.5

TWL Player Rating Average: 6.2 

 

LIGI SAO

Started 2018 in the first-choice line-up (against TWL’s wishes) and was surprisingly good across the Warriors’ opening four wins, starting the first two rounds at lock and coming off the bench in the next two games.

That’s what made his ISP demotion so surprising – he didn’t do anything to get dropped, though his defence could do with a bit of work. A handy back-up.

Played:Tries:Try Assists:Line-breaks:Tackle-breaks:Offloads:Errors: Penalties Conceded: 1

Averages – Minutes: 33.3  Runs: Running Metres: 72  Tackles: 15.8  Missed Tackles: 1.8

TWL Player Rating Average: 6.3

 

ALBERT VETE

Very solid off the bench in back-to-back games against the Dragons and Storm but – like last year when he made just eight NRL appearances – again finds himself an odd man out in the Kearney’s front-row rotation.

Won’t ever let anyone down but unless injuries strike it’s difficult to see Vete forging a regular spot in the 17, which is a shame for a player that racked up 36 top-grade games in 2015-16.

Played:Tries:Try Assists:Line-breaks:Tackle-breaks:Offloads:Errors: 0  Penalties Conceded: 0

Averages – Minutes: 24  Runs: Running Metres: 64  Tackles: 12.5  Missed Tackles: 1.5

TWL Player Rating Average: 6.3

 

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