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There’s the very real prospect of Ken Maumalo – jettisoned to Wests Tigers soon after the halfway mark of the season – finishing as the Warriors’ 2021 top try-scorer.

Big Ken crossed for eight tries in 11 games before being controversially punted, a tally boosted by a farewell hat-trick against Melbourne in Round 14 that left many fans questioning why they were sending the 2019 Dally M Winger of the Year packing.

After scoring a snail-paced 14 tries in his first 64 NRL games, Maumalo emerged as a potent scorer in 2019 with 17 meat pies – a season total bettered just five times in Warriors history. He headed back to Auckland midway through 2020 after dotting down five times in eight games. The genial wing giant left the club with 30 tries in his last 42 games, a more than handy strike-rate.

Maumalo’s exit leaves the Warriors – who have blown out to $6.50 in the Top 8 Finish market after their shocking collapse against St George Illawarra – without a noted try-poacher in their ranks.

North Queensland-bound Peta Hiku, whose 2021 campaign ended in Round 6, topped the Warriors’ try charts in 2020 with eight – the lowest tally in the club’s history. Though it occurred in a truncated season, Hiku’s haul across 18 games also represented the lowest strike-rate by any Warriors top try-scorer.

Remarkably, burly impact forward Ben Murdoch-Masila is next on the Warriors’ tryscoring charts this season with six in 14 appearances. Following a run of four in five games, BMM is try-less in the Warriors’ last three outings.

Rookie wonderboy Reece Walsh (four tries in seven games) and one-dimensional Adam Pompey (four tries in 12 games) shape as the only other players capable of mowing down Maumalo with nine rounds to go.

Centre recruit Euan Aitken has scored three tries in six appearances of an injury- and COVID-impacted first season with the Warriors, but the former Dragon boasts a modest career record of 42 tries in 127 games. Marcelo Montoya has three tries in nine games – and just 10 tries in 44 NRL appearances since his fruitful 12-try rookie year with Canterbury in 2017. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has found the line just three times in 15 games and has never been an especially potent try-scorer, managing 57 in 193 NRL games (29 in 109 games for the Warriors).

On the surface, mid-season recruit Dallin Watene-Zelezniak – strong on club debut in Friday’s horrific loss to the Saints – shapes as the ideal player to slot into that wing weapon role. But DWZ has scored just 14 tries in his last 74 first-grade outings for the Panthers, Bulldogs and now Warriors.

Nevertheless, Watene-Zelezniak and Tuivasa-Sheck are the shortest-priced Warriors in the Anytime Try Scorer market at $1.91 ahead of Sunday’s showdown with Cronulla. Walsh ($2.25), Montoya ($3.00) and the returning Rocco Berry ($3.30) are rated the next-best chances to score in the crunch NRL Round 17 clash.

Of course, having a blue-chip playmaker can turn any outside-back into a tryscoring machine, as evidenced by David Fusitu’a’s Shaun Johnson-influenced, club-record-equalling 23 tries in 23 games in 2018 – and his tally of just six tries in 28 games since the halfback left. Johnson’s 2022 return, along with 18-year-old Walsh’s insane ability to produce try-assists like he’s shelling peas, should have the Warriors’ three-quarters licking their lips.

Johnson, though, will be aiming to put the Sharks’ flyers over for a few tries at the Warriors’ expense this weekend. The Kiwi Test veteran has 42 try-assists in 41 games for the Sharks, and wingers Ronaldo Mulitalo ($1.57) and Sione Katoa ($1.62) have been regular beneficiaries of Johnson’s ball-playing mastery. Mulitalo has scored 22 tries in 33 games and Katoa has crossed 24 times in 39 appearances.

At the pointy end of the NRL’s tryscoring race, a fascinating battle is unfolding between the Storm’s Josh Addo-Carr and the Rabbitohs’ Alex Johnston. Both wingers have scored 19 tries in just 15 games, with reigning try champ Johnson ($2.50) edging in front of Addo-Carr ($3.00) to finish the regular season as the NRL Top Tryscorer.

Manly’s beanpole Jason Saab ($7.00), whose 16 tries in 2021 have come in his last 11 games, remains a dark horse.

Meanwhile, TAB’s The Shark is finding it tough to predict a winner between enigmatic opponents the Sharks and Warriors this weekend. But he’s expecting a pile of tries to be scored, favouring the Over 49.5 Points as the Best Bet ($1.90) and Total Points of 61+ as a Value Bet option ($4.33).

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