The performance spoke for itself: the Warriors’ 40-10 semi-final demolition of Newcastle was one of the greatest displays in the club’s history on an occasion as significant and electrifying as any in its 29 seasons.
Dominating in every facet from start to finish, it’s hard to remember so many players making such a meaningful and dynamic contribution to a Warriors victory – and it’s an amazing launching pad to plan a preliminary final ambush in Brisbane.
After a special day – and having been at a heaving Mt Smart Stadium myself courtesy of the KCC boys – here’s your delayed Kingz Container Crew Warriors Player Ratings.
1 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD: Steamed over for the first try to kick-start a near-perfect performance. An outrageous 32 runs for 297 metres (101 post-contact), a try assist, eight tackle-breaks and a string of outstanding takes under the high ball. One of the great finals performances and a hell of a statement ahead of next week’s individual showdown with predecessor Reece Walsh. 9.5
2 DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK: Another high-quality, all-action display from DWZ, making two line-breaks, producing a brilliant try-assist offload, and careening into the Knights’ defence for 156 metres on 14 runs with six tackle-breaks. Caught out slightly as opposite Greg Marzhew zipped over for the Knights’ first but comfortably had the better of that battle. 8.5
3 ROCCO BERRY: Relatively quiet first half but sensational after the break. A strong run that earned a penalty soon after the Knights cut the deficit to six was one of the big plays of the night – the Warriors never looked back from there. Muscled his way over superbly for a back-breaking try and finished with 11 runs for 106 metres along with 17 tackles to outpoint opposite Dane Gagai. Huge confidence-booster ahead of a massive match-up against Kotoni Staggs. 8.5
4 ADAM POMPEY: To paraphrase Michael Corleone, just when you though you wanted him out, he pulls you back in. Huge in a ball-carrying capacity with 14 runs for 146 metres, beautiful hands to send Montoya in and handled Bradman Best well defensively. Nailed some big goals from out wide, too. Unquestionably one of his best NRL performances and another to get a hefty shot confidence prior to key individual clash next Saturday, lining up against Herbie Farnworth. 8.5
5 MARCELO MONTOYA: Like Pompey and Berry, Montoya bounced back marvellously from a torrid finals debut. Excellent finish for the Warriors’ third try, smashed red-hot opponent Dom Young into touch and was an absolute workhorse with 20 carries for 156 metres, along with some fine kick defusals. 8.5
6 TE MAIRE MARTIN: Shook off the rust of his first two games back from a broken-leg layoff with a much more polished and composed performance in his preferred role as halves lieutenant. Engineered Montoya’s try on a much more dangerous-looking left edge, while he was rock-solid in defence with 23 tackles. Gave away a penalty and an inside-the-10 set restart. 7.5
7 SHAUN JOHNSON: The individual fairytale within the broader club fairytale is almost getting ridiculous at this point. Put aside the rabid focus on his injury – and the troublesome calf itself – to produce a truly dominant performance and unequivocally bury the pain of his last finals appearance for the Warriors that essentially led to his acrimonious exit. Fired immediately by setting up CNK’s try, had the assist for AFB and key involvements in three other tries. Kicked faultlessly including two line dropouts, was a strong presence on D and even ran the ball 15 times for 94 metres despite his leg hindrance. The half-lap of appreciation after his early mark may be his greatest moment as a Warriors…if it’s not still to come in the next fortnight, that is. 9.5
8 ADDIN FONUA-BLAKE: Tallies of 10 runs for 117 metres and 16 tackles are very un-AFB-like, but he was required to work himself into the ground such was the Warriors’ dominance and played an uncustomarily low 42 minutes. Powered over for a memorable try and was high-quality in everything he did. 8
9 WAYDE EGAN: All class at dummy-half, providing the pinpoint service to get the Warriors’ tryscoring movements underway, most notably with a great piece of deception to open up the space for Walker to spear over from first receiver. Ran astutely (four runs for 42 metres) though one resulted in an error, while he was only just held up twice after getting over the line. Racked up 36 tackles before hitting the bench with 13 minutes left. 8
10 MITCH BARNETT: As he did on club debut in Round 1, stood up to be counted against his former team. Churned through 151 metres from 15 runs, come up with some bellringers in an aggressive 21-tackle contribution and was arguably the standout prop on the paddock. 8.5
11 JACKSON FORD: Probably his best showing at NRL level. Enormous numbers in an 80-minute shift – 17 runs for 188 metres and a team-high 45 tackles – and all of it top-shelf. Outworked and outenthused the Knights without coming up with the usual error and penalty or two that can be a byproduct of his high-octane style. 8.5
12 MARATA NIUKORE: Bent the line back repeatedly with some powerful runs before hobbling off with what looked like a serious injury after 20 minutes. Made a miraculous recovery to come back on for Curran for the last 20 and finished with 17 tackles and nine runs for 75 metres. 7.5
13 TOHU HARRIS: Nothing short of phenomenal. Incredible work-rate with 25 runs for 228 metres and 39 tackles – second in the team on both counts – but stacks of impact as well. A stunning bust in the lead-up to Walker’s try, a hand in another try (among 19 passes) and vital decoy runs to aid two other tries. Has never played better than 2023 and this was debatably his finest hour. 9.5
14 DYLAN WALKER: Returned to his impact role and was as effective as ever, with his charge to score a huge try under the posts the highlight. Racked up 12 runs for 97 metres and 26 tackles in just 38 minutes and played the link role nicely once again. 8
15 JAZZ TEVAGA: Only 19 minutes off the pine but made the most of them with seven runs for 71 metres and 12 tackles. Few deserve this success more than Jazzy and it’s great to see him holding down a spot in the 17. 7
16 BAYLEY SIRONEN: Played the last 32 minutes, including the last 13 at dummy-half – a stint that garnered a memorable show-and-go try to complete the scoring. Six runs for 67 metres and 23 tackles in a fine effort. 7.5
17 JOSH CURRAN: Good energy and work-rate in 39 minutes on the field. Punched hard on the right edge and defended with typical gusto to finish with seven runs for 56 metres and 23 tackles. 7.5