Warriors coach Andrew McFadden sure is making some unique decisions around the use of his interchange this NRL season.
In the 30-8 win over the Canberra Raiders at Mt Smart Stadium yesterday coach McFadden opted to give second-rower Raymond Faitala-Mariner just a handful of minutes on the field and held replacement hooker Siliva Havili back for the entire game. While not necessarily unique in holding a player back the fact McFadden could find only a handful of minutes to share between two players is strange however, particularly with a front row rotation that included the inexperienced Albert Vete and Charlie Gubb.
The ploy worked though as the Warriors dominated the Green Machine in the middle third of the field and allowed the attack to get plenty of front foot ball.
Assistant coach Andrew Webster told me after the game that there was only ever a plan to use Havili if starting hooker Nathan Friend was forced into being replaced with injury or a greater-than-expected workload. He believes with three starting back rowers that are capable of playing 80 minutes the Warriors can use the extra help up front, where there has been a perceived lack of punch once stating props Jacob Lillyman and Ben Matulino come off. The idea is to use more of the permitted changes with the front row rotation – making the stints slightly shorter but hopefully more productive.
There is logic in that thinking but it puts an awful lot of strain on Simon Mannering, Ryan Hoffman and Bodene Thompson. While all three are workaholics and are happy to rack up big minutes – a run of games with such a heavy workload will begin to take its toll eventually. Thompson had an impressive start to the season on the Warriors right edge but wasn’t as effective after about six weeks as the workload caught up with him. He got back to his best again after the rep weekend and bye.
The Warriors have a bye next weekend before starting the run to the finals with a match-up against the Melbourne Storm at Mt Smart Stadium in a fortnight. While comfortably inside the top eight at this point of the year, the Warriors have found themselves in a similar position in recent seasons only to fall away after State of Origin concluded. Over-working a strength of the club will not help with that but a chance to put the feet up for a few days and a weekend off should recharge the batteries a little.