Albert Einstein – “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much to preview in terms of positivity this week. The also-ran Warriors take on the third-placed Raiders, a team they were thrashed 46-12 by just five weeks ago. Apart from a glimmer of hope against Manly, not much has changed since then – ultimately it was a game that sent them on a tragic downward spiral.
Check out my stats preview of that Raiders clash of just over a month ago. I have decided to go down a different path this week – a look to next season:
- 42 – This will be the 42nd clash between the Warriors and Raiders, with the Raiders winning on 22 previous occasions to the Warriors 19.
Every week since that compelling loss to Canberra the narrative has been, ‘this is the last chance’. Inevitably, as chances do, they run out if you don’t take them. The players have talked about playing for pride, restoring some faith among their fans, and playing for the jersey. All classic rugby league clichés – but it just doesn’t seem to be working. Coach Stephen Kearney has virtually rolled out the same team each week.
- 115 – The Warriors have conceded 115 points in their past three games.
- 32 – The Warriors have scored just 32 points in their past three games.
The Raiders are resting several key players in what is effectively a dead-rubber for both sides, and are clearly not too worried abut this game as they look towards week one of the finals.
- 9 – The Raiders have won nine of their last 12 games.
- 2 – However, two of those three losses were at home in Canberra.
- 5 – In total, five of Canberra’s eight losses in 2019 have been at home.
In fact, numerous NRL sides have taken the decision to rest key players this season with nothing of consequence on the line in several games. But what of the Warriors? Would this not be a perfect opportunity to blood some new talent? Give some youngsters exposure to the NRL? Start building momentum for 2020?
- 4 – Four Warriors players not contracted for 2020 have been named in the 21-man squad for this weekend. Blake Ayshford (retiring), Issac Luke (TBC), Ligi Sao (Hull FC from 2020), Hayze Perham (Club Option).
Without wanting to sound disrespectful to these players, surely in some cases the future of the club should be the priority and sentiment has to be an aside.
Two players who can hold their heads high this season, Peta Hiku and Chanel Harris-Tavita, are sadly both ruled out with injury this week. As is rookie centre Patrick Herbert, who has also performed admirably when fit.
- 12 – Harris-Tavita scored all 12 of the Warriors’ points the last time these two sides met.
So who, if any, are the other options for the future within the current roster? Some of the standout stats from the Canterbury Cup reserve grade side below tend to throw up the usual names.
- 9 – The Warriors’ Canterbury Cup side finished in 9th place this season, narrowly missing out on a finals berth.
- 15 – Setu Tu is the leading try-scorer in the entire Canterbury Cup this season with 15 and is second for line breaks. But unfortunately he also features high in the errors stats. Credit where it is due for his tryscoring exploits, but with the Warriors well covered for wingers he may have to bide his time for a while yet.
- 172 – Chris Satae sits in 7th spot for metres run per game with a 172-metre average. His 2,417 metres run places him in 15th spot, but unfortunately he has already taken up an offer with Hull FC in the UK Super League. Adam Pompey and Taane Milne also feature in the top 25 for this metric.
- 144 – Similarly, Ligi Sao who is also Hull FC-bound, is the second biggest Warriors metre-eating forward in the Canterbury Cup side this season.
So our two biggest/best running forwards have either left or are due to leave. Sao is set to play his eighth NRL game of the season in Canberra, while Satae was used just twice in first grade in 2019.
- 83 – Leivaha Pulu, a promising signing from the Titans but for whatever reason hasn’t found his running game this season, averages just 83 metres per game to go with his 26 tackles per game in the Canterbury Cup. Not really enough to be banging on the coaches door – though he does possess the variety in his game the Warriors’ pack is lacking.
- 7 – Adam Keighran, with seven assists and 88 points from his 16 games in reserve grade remains on the periphery of the first-grade squad for the time being. Still, a long way off the competition-high of 26 assists from Dragons half Adam Clune – who doesn’t even get a look in at his underperforming club.
- 117 – Centre/back-rower Taane Milne has been steady with 117 metres per game, although with a tackling percentage below 80% will need some work in the off-season. But the potential is there and the Warriors are light in both positions.
- 19 – A couple of 19-year-olds also look to have some potential. Young fullback Paul Turner and back-rower Phillip Makatoa (cousin of Sonny Bill Williams) have both impressed in their step up from Jersey Flegg. Turner was the under-20s side’s Player of the Year despite spending much of the year in the Canterbury Cup.
Honourable mention must also go to Hayze Perham, Jackson Frei and Joshua Curran, who all look to be first-grade material given time. And I’ll say it again, what better time to give them some exposure, an opportunity. I mean, who better to bring in than some rugby league players that are already contracted to the club?
To say that the Warriors need to sign some more quality is a fair assessment, and with nobody even remotely on the horizon for 2020 it doesn’t exactly get you fired up for what is to come next year. But despite common opinion, a lot of sides don’t actually do their business until after the November 1 new contract season begins. Anyone you sign mid-season technically counts as a signing for the following season, and re-signings from within generally go by the wayside.
But, I digress.
For the Warriors to have any chance this weekend it has to start with defence and halting the flow of points, which have been flowing in against them with ease over the past month.
- 4 – The Warriors have won just four of their 17 clashes in the Australian capital city since 1996.
- 3 – Three of their four wins coming in the last five years, having previously not won in Canberra since 1997.
- 554 – The Warriors are the third-worst defensive side in the NRL this season, conceding 24 points per game.
In essence it has been a forgettable season, hardly one to celebrate as the 25th anniversary of the club. Let’s not even get started on the ownership squabble.
- 2004 – This has been the equal second-worst season for the Warriors for home wins with just five; only 2004 produced less wins at home.
But, let’s be honest. It has been a classic Warriors season in every sense of the word and whilst it has been disappointing we are all still Warriors fans no matter what. Come Saturday afternoon we’ll all be cheering our guys on to stick it to these Raiders and grabbing just their second final-round win since 2011.
- 23 – The amount of times I have backed the Warriors to win this season, 23 – less the bye. And I’ll be backing them again this weekend.