General League: Wade weaves his on-form magic

Skinny_Ravs82

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www.nzherald.co.nz

Wade Mckinnon doesn't look like the type of guy who suffers from arachnophobia but Warriors coach Ivan Cleary might do well to leave a few spiders lying around McKinnon's locker.

The Warriors fullback was in dynamic form in Friday night's 54-14 shellacking of Penrith, scoring two tries and having a major hand in two others. He ran superb lines, wove his way around countless defenders and gobbled up a series of offloads from his teammates, who had a field day attacking Penrith up the middle of the park.

"It would be good if he was like that every week, which he is close to doing, but it was like he had spiders on him," Cleary said. "He was just fantastic. I thought he was great last week in difficult conditions and he backed it up [against Penrith].

"It was a different sort of game for him [from last weekend] and he had a lot more free space every time he got it."

He had 223m of free space, to be precise, easily his best return of a topsy-turvy season.

It was a difficult proposition taking over from the popular Brent Webb - McKinnon has understandably tired of the comparisons - but he hit the ground running with a series of good performances until a run-in, literally, with a referee against Souths ground his season to a halt. His form dipped on his return from a two-match suspension, although he was not the only Warrior that happened to, but in the past two weeks he has shown his full repertoire.

Last weekend against the Sharks, McKinnon showed his value in keeping his line intact. He was impervious under the high ball in difficult conditions, read the game well and defended like someone was trying to break into his house.

On Friday, against a dreadful Penrith side, he went on the attack. Only the naysayers would still question his worth after his 65m run, which left nearly 10,000 fans at Mt Smart Stadium glad they endured the stormy weather.

McKinnon was downplaying his role in the win, borrowing a number of lines out of the rugby league manual of cliches.

"My form comes off the back of the boys," he deadpanned. "If they're going well, it opens up so many opportunities for me to play. When they do that, that's when I'm going to pop up and play my best.

"There are definitely days when you're feeling good, and [that] was one of them. things were feeling right. The last few weeks I haven't been getting those short balls off the forwards but they were giving them to me and it was working out right."


The night was right for five-eighth Michael Witt. The 23-year-old has been unconvincing at times this season but, like McKinnon, has rediscovered his form in the past two weeks.

He, too, scored a double, adding to the one he scored against Cronulla last weekend. He's also proved his value with the boot, kicking a perfect 11 from 11 shots at goal in the absence of the injured Tony Martin.

Witt was aware of the criticism flying his way during the Warriors' run of six straight losses.

"There's always pressure when you're losing but this is our business and we're paid to win," he said.

"When any team is losing, people are always going to look at the halves to see if it's their fault. It's a pivotal position."

Witt isn't the strongest defender in the world, and Cleary will have a tough decision ahead of him in the next week with the imminent return from injury of Jerome Ropati. But with news that Martin is likely to be sidelined with damaged ribs for up to three weeks, Cleary might be tempted to slot the versatile Ropati into the centres.

The team have clearly refound their confidence and are playing are more expansive game, leading to suggestions they might have turned the corner after their run of losses.

"You'd hope to think so," Witt said. "Our confidence is high. We'll just be looking to build a few wins in a row. But we have a tough couple of games coming up away so it will certainly test us."

The Warriors travel to the Gold Coast next Saturday night to face a Titans side that have forged an impressive home record.

They then journey further north the following week to tackle a mercurial Cowboys outfit. The team will stay in Queensland between games.

Their position on the table is starting to look a lot healthier but with a short distance to both third and last, they don't want to be tangled in a spider's web and miss out on the eight.
 

Wiki_old

Guest
Yuuuuuusss. They talk about Jerome going to the centres.

I like the Ravs / Witt combo at the moment. Leave it at that and put my boy Jerome in the #3.
 

sebastian_old

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Yuuuuuusss. They talk about Jerome going to the centres.

I like the Ravs / Witt combo at the moment. Leave it at that and put my boy Jerome in the #3.

That would be a very dangerous line up with Jerome at centre & Witt & Ravs in form with Wade hovering around the back. I think Witt is a much better 5/8 than Ropati & i wouldn't mind Ropati in the team if he was at centre. We can only be patient & see if Ivan does put Jerome in the centres, it would be harsh to change our current halves after that sensational peformance on Friday, so fairly Jerome should slot straight in the centre's, either that or Todd & Jerome goes to PL.
 
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Skinny_Ravs82

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another article to go with the nzherald one

www.stuff.co.nz
It's firecracker McKinnon
Warriors players pledged to put their bodies on the line to save their rapidly-declining season, but didn't need to follow through after outmuscling Penrith 54-14 for their biggest victory in 363 days.


After scoring a four-pointer hailed by some as the try of the year and by team-mate Tony Martin as "the best I've ever seen", fullback Wade McKinnon said the Warriors had "never stopped talking" about making the top eight during a six-match losing streak.
The Warriors rose from 13th to ninth after a 40-point margin against an embarrassed Panthers, a stylish display capped by a 65-metre solo, sidestepping effort from McKinnon.
McKinnon recalled little of his superb score, and didn't want to talk it up as a career-best. But he was more talkative on the Warriors' finals prospects: "We never weren't talking about the eight: we've always had that in mind. We never won't talk about it. I think it was always realistic (to hope for)."
It was, McKinnon said, the type of free-flowing, old-school Warriors performance that had attracted him to Auckland from Parramatta: "That's it in a nutshell."
Players said the biggest change in their approach to turning that losing run into successive wins against Cronulla and Penrith was that pre-match promise: "Everyone said we have really got to want this, and it showed," said McKinnon.
Martin added: "The only thing we really spoke about is doing whatever it takes to win. When we are losing, maybe we are just going out and doing our job, everyone is doing their job, going quite well but just not getting across the line. Last week before the game and this week as well we spoke about a real desire to do whatever it takes to win."
Martin said the Warriors had "turned the corner" and were close to the form that brought them four wins from the opening six rounds: "We're back up where we were at the start of the year".
The Warriors couldn't break 10,000 spectators despite a free gig laid on afterwards from Shihad and a fireworks display, but chief executive Wayne Scurrah said he was happy with the turnout, given several recent sub-7000 crowds in Sydney in equally bad weather.
The absentees missed possibly the best Warriors performance in a year, with nine tries, superb ball handling, a dominant pack and a creative midfield led by McKinnon, hooker George Gatis and halves Michael Witt and Grant Rovelli.
Gatis, however, confirmed he will leave Auckland at the season's end after the club yesterday released him, Martin, wing Todd Byrne and second rower Corey Lawrie.
The Warriors yesterday also signed Bradford's Australian-raised, Scottish international hooker Ian Henderson, formerly of Parramatta and the Roosters, to a two-year deal.
Scurrah said the club had two places remaining in their top 25 for 2008 - depending on negotiations with the NRL about their secondary salary cap for the new under-20 competition.
The club continue to negotiate with Logan Swann for one slot, but are "open-minded" about the other.
Gatis said he might retire, at the age of 28, after failing to agree renewed terms because he wouldn't commit to more than a one-year deal. "As much as I would like to stay on they are looking to go in a different direction," Gatis said.
"Next year I could be serving fish and chips across the counter (he owns a Townsville restaurant) - whatever my father wants of me. The club made it clear that's the direction they are going and there's not a bitter note from my perspective." Gatis won't play on for "rubbish money and just an opportunity" but might go to England.
Martin said his agent Jim Banaghan is also actively soliciting offers from Super League, while Byrne said: "The club isn't in a position to make me a reasonable offer... my plan now is to head to England or possibly try and pick something up in Australia."
The Warriors have agreed to take up a one-year option on second row Epalahame Lauaki, who revealed he had concluded contract talks almost a week ago. "I had a couple of offers from other clubs in the NRL, and the move to Aussie would be a big one for me, but I got another chance (here)."
After creating four tries with sharp dummy-half play on Friday night, Gatis said a first and possibly last taste of semifinal football was his motivation this season.
Preferred to Nathan Fien as starting hooker in a late reshuffle, he said: "I definitely think my style of play is suited to starting and I play my best football when I am left on the field a bit of time: I don't feel the pressure to come out and try do something special in a short amount of time. My style is not to be a superstar, just to make the middle nice and tight, give good service and take the right options when they are available."
Also looking revived was restored halfback Rovelli's partnership with impressive 18-point five-eighth Witt, with Rovelli claiming a two-week demotion to reserve grade had made him a better player.
"I was filthy, but looking back now, it's probably been better for me," he said. "For sure (I am better). I've been doing more of the stuff that worked for us at the start of the year. The boys showed me a lot of support when I was down with the Lions, now I want to repay that."
After a pool recovery session yesterday morning in Otara, Warriors doctor John Mayhew said they were hopeful a rib injury to Martin was not a break and he would be fit within three weeks. And vice-captain Ruben Wiki said he expected to return from his own rib problem in Saturday's awkward trip to the North Queensland Cowboys: "I'm sick of watching from the stands." WARRIORS (M Witt 2 G Gatis W Koopu W McKinnon 2 E Lauaki M Vatuvei L Anderson tries, T Martin 4 M Witt 5 gls).
PANTHERS (L Lewis N Youngquest K Peters tries, M Gordon gl).
 

Joe 90_old

Guest
That would be a very dangerous line up with Jerome at centre & Witt & Ravs in form with Wade hovering around the back. I think Witt is a much better 5/8 than Ropati & i wouldn't mind Ropati in the team if he was at centre. We can only be patient & see if Ivan does put Jerome in the centres, it would be harsh to change our current halves after that sensational peformance on Friday, so fairly Jerome should slot straight in the centre's, either that or Todd & Jerome goes to PL.
Still not sold on the Ropati at centre thing. Attack wise, no problem. Defence wise, just have vivid memories from when he was tried there of him making bad reads, coming in off his man leaving overlaps. It was noticeable that teams would attack down his and Meli's side all the time and we were stung regulary. If he can address this then no problem.
 

kiwi man_old

Guest
many will disagree but imo id leave koopu in the centers n promote a backrower... koopu bombed the one try but other then that his D was solid and he looked dangerous
just a thought
 

Kav_old

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Koopu has never let us down playing in the centres. He was close to our best last week doing a lot of the cleaning up stuff. In my mind, he doesn't get the accolades he deserves.

Kav
 

Jesbass_old

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Koopu certainly still has the ability to read the game like a centre should, although he is understandably lacking in the pace department.
 

Skinny_Ravs82

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He bombed a try and mis read a Gower kick but yeh other then that he was pretty good.
 

Joe 90_old

Guest
The good thing about the try he bombed was the footwork he put on his opposite to beat him, creating the overlap. Just didn't pass the ball. Typical forward.

As far as speed goes, i'd back him over Martin anyday. As evident by the try he scored. Hitting the hole at pace, with strength to brush off the cover tackler. I doubt if TM would of scored that.
 

Skinny_Ravs82

Guest
The good thing about the try he bombed was the footwork he put on his opposite to beat him, creating the overlap. Just didn't pass the ball. Typical forward.

As far as speed goes, i'd back him over Martin anyday. As evident by the try he scored. Hitting the hole at pace, with strength to brush off the cover tackler. I doubt if TM would of scored that.
I thought he did pass it but Paddy didn't catch it? Anyway...moving right along