TWL RD 13: WARRIORS PLAYER RATINGS

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It’s your weekly dose of catharsis after another bone-chilling chapter in the Warriors’ 2022 horror story – a 44-12 loss to an Origin-depleted, injury-hit, 11th-placed (but nevertheless totally dominant and rampaging) Manly Sea Eagles.

1 REECE WALSH: No Warrior has tried harder in 2022 and certainly none did at Brookvale – but it wasn’t Walshy’s night. Produced the team’s first try with a line-break and assist and ran for a team-high 137 metres, but the more enduring memory of his performance will be the errors on attack (including a pass intercepted for a late runaway try) under the pressure of Manly’s rushing defence. Whether his lack of time with the ball in hand is down to a poorly-structured attacking game-plan, inadequate service from inside or his own lines (or a combination of those factors) is hard to gauge. Brown harps on about how Walsh is a much better player than last year, but he’s having nowhere near the impact on the Warriors’ good ball offence as the rookie version did. 4.5

2 DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK: Seemed more occupied with push-and-shoves with the opposition than getting the timing of his runs right and catching the ball. Struggled with Manly’s physicality, making just 81 metres on 13 carries and conceded a penalty on top of two handling errors. DWZ has produced some good moments since arriving at the club but the reputation-to-performance quotient is not even close to being in the club’s favour, as agitatedly predicted by this observer on these very pages and in TWL’s podcast after he signed. 4

3 ROCCO BERRY: Arguably one of Berry’s better 2022 displays in some aspects, which isn’t saying much. Ran strongly (9 carries for 77 metres) and defended particularly well (18 tackles, 0 misses) but couldn’t combat Harper’s in-your-face defence. Johnson’s service didn’t help the novice, but Berry seems clueless about how to run effective centre lines and couldn’t spy a gap at the Grand Canyon. Some good judges reckon he’ll definitely make it at the top level…but after 14 NRL appearances and little improvement, I’m leaning the other way. 4.5

4 ADAM POMPEY: Appeared to be the Warriors’ punchiest ball-carrier with 111 metres on 11 runs, but was found out defensively in a repeat of the Dragons debacle as rookie speedster Tolutau Koula had a field day opposite the 46-game veteran. Had a handling error and a penalty against his name. Can do a job on the wing but nowhere near being an NRL-standard centre – simple as that. 4

5 MARCELO MONTOYA: A typically high-octane display from Marcelo, leaving multiple Manly defenders on the seat of their pants and recovering from a couple of big blows – including an HIA stint – to finish with 110 metres on 10 runs, plus a team-high four tackle-breaks and one of only three team line-breaks. Perhaps the best of a woeful bunch. 5.5

6 CHANEL HARRIS-TAVITA: Had much more of a dig than in his return against Newcastle and sparked up in the second half with  the left-side attack looking much more dangerous than the clunky right, but the Fox Sports commentary team’s praise of CHT was a bit overblown. Racked up 20 tackles but missed a whopping nine, conceded a penalty and no genuine standout moments. 5

7 SHAUN JOHNSON: It’s absurd that a halfback is (yet again) public enemy number one after a 44-12 loss, but that’s an indication of how badly the Warriors’ prodigal son is going. A couple of poor kicks put the team on the back foot early and a dud pass snuffed out one of their rare first-half ventures into Manly’s half. Johnson couldn’t turn it around, looked rattled and the Warriors’ right-side attack was a mess under the heat of the Sea Eagles’ swarming defence, with the veteran unable to create any space for his outside men. Defended reasonably well himself (14 tackles, 1 miss) and forced the Warriors’ only line dropout. This is the worst streak of form of Johnson’s chequered career and it’s as painful to watch for staunch pro-SJ types as it is to hear the anti-SJ bridgade wheel out well-worn horseshit tropes about how he has never been an organising half. Johnson is only 21 games removed from a top-five Dally M finish and leading the NRL in try-assists at Cronulla, while anyone who doesn’t credit his direction as being a huge part of a 15-9 season in 2018 needs a reminder of how much the team struggled with Blake Green attempting to steer the ship in 2019-20. But right now it’s undeniable that SJ sucks, he’s making a shitty team shittier and his failure to fire seems to be as much of a distraction for his teammates as it is for the fans. 3

8 BEN MURDOCH-MASILA: Barely up-to-standard work-rate (8 runs 77 metres, 17 tackles) in a pair of 21-minute stints from a starting prop and minimal authority in the face of a tails-up Sea Eagles pack. One handling error, one penalty conceded. 4

9 WAYDE EGAN: Wholehearted 70-minute return from injury, taking it upon himself to get out of dummy-half in a battling team to finish with 74 metres from seven runs. Chalked up 33 tackles (4 misses) but had a couple of forgettable goal-line moments – as well as saving a try with some desperation under the posts. The fact he is so highly rated as an improver and leader amongst this Warriors rabble reflects how bad this team is travelling, though – I’m struggling to find a place for him in the NRL’s top-10 hookers. 5

10 JAZZ TEVAGA: Hard to be too critical given he should never have to wear the 8 or 10 jersey – and made 13 gutsy runs for 107 metres, the only Warriors forward to crack triple figures. A bad night defensively (21 tackles with 3 misses and 5 ineffective) began with an early goal-line blunder, while he conceded the team’s only set restart. Is he really playing the best footy of his career as Brown repeatedly spouts in his post-match pressers? Less penalties and errors, sure, but also less fire and impact. Wears his heart on his sleeve and can’t fault his passion – but not going well enough to be naming and shaming in post-match interviews. 4.5

11 EUAN AITKEN: Pretty solid and reliable aside from a bad handling error carting the ball out of Warriors territory in the first half. One of the busiest (35 tackles) and arguably the most forceful Warriors defender, though his opposite, Haumole Ola’kauatu, destroyed the left-edge resistance in the first half. Ten runs for 91 metres. 5

13 JACK MURCHIE: Just six runs in 80 minutes is a poor return, but Murchie did grind away defensively with 36 tackles. The handling error he was credited with was due to an impossible Johnson pass. Great grab to latch onto a cross-field kick on Manly’s line, only to fail to ground the ball with the maligned Morgan Harper made to look like Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Backed up Walsh’s break to get on the scoresheet a few minutes later. 5

12 TOHU HARRIS: Tough old night for the skipper. Made only 87 metres in carrying the ball into the teeth of Manly’s fierce defence 14 times, chalked up a team-high 41 tackles but missed four, and gave away four penalties. Nice hand in the Warriors’ first try and was busy in attack with 17 passes. Though his effort and work-rate can’t be questioned in four games since his return, the team isn’t exactly responding to his leadership. 4.5

 

14 TANIELA OTUKOLO: Should have got much more than 10 minutes in a game that was effectively over as a contest at halftime, but this was the young rake’s most impressive NRL outing to date. Looked sharp and lively at dummy-half, making one incisive run and contributing to Bunty’s late try with a nice piece of deception near the line. More please. 5

15 BUNTY AFOA: Astonishing that the Warriors’ most impactful available front-rower isn’t starting. Perhaps a tad unfortunate with the sin-binning but he had to go. Five runs for 61 metres in 33 minutes on the park and barged over for a late try, as well as a strong 25-tackle contribution. 5

16 AARON PENE: Man has the ex-Storm forward fallen short of my pre-season estimations. I expected him to immediately challenge Lodge as the Warriors’ No.2 front-rower but he’d struggling to be in a full-strength 17 right now. Played 24 minutes, made three runs and 19 tackles. 3.5

17 BAYLEY SIRONEN: Made seven runs for 56 metres and 22 tackles (4 misses) in 34 minutes of game-time. Genuinely only noticed his presence when struggling defensively near the Warriors’ line during the first half and when making a couple of spirited carries in the dying minutes. 4

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