General New Australians Shine in Warriors

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By Michael Brown

When the Warriors rattled off the new signings for 2006, the response could not have been more different to that of 12 months ago.

Instead of luminaries like Steve Price and Ruben Wiki, we were told of the imminent arrivals of Grant Rovelli, George Gatis and Micheal Luck. League fans could've been forgiven for delving into their almanacs to find out just who they were.

It seems somewhat ironic, then, that aside from screeds of fish-and-chip paper devoted to the salary cap debacle, the trio of Australians have often been the ones most talked about at the Warriors this season.

Rovelli and Gatis, in particular, have taken their chances, while Luck has delivered what he promised - a solid, all-round game.

In an age when the new and scandal-averse Warriors management have talked about hanging on to top Kiwi talent, signing high-profile Australians could be a thing of the past. The team would be based around New Zealanders and supplemented by 'second-tier' Australians, as former CEO Mick Watson liked to call them, meaning the recruitment of the likes of Gatis, Rovelli and Luck could be a sign of the times.

Luring these second-tier Australians to Auckland is nothing new. Some, like Robbie Mears and Jason Death, are successful and some, much to the club's chagrin, might have been sent to the glue factory had they been racehorses.

Although it's still early days in their Warriors careers, Rovelli, Gatis and Luck look like they fit into the success category this season.

They're not ever likely to turn into club stars, but for relatively little money - Gatis would have made more running his fish-and-chip shop than playing for the Warriors - they can do a job for you and can normally do it as soon as they pull on a Warriors jumper.

The much tougher Australian junior and lower-league system usually means they adapt more quickly to the demands of the NRL. But even Ivan Cleary admitted surprise at how well they have done.

"At this point, we couldn't have expected much more," the Warriors coach said. "We're rapt with the way they're going.

"The club's recruitment philosophy will mean we'll only get from Australia what we don't have here. We won't do it just for the sake of it."

Gatis wasn't supposed to have been seen much this season. He was brought in to play second fiddle to Lance Hohaia at hooker in case the converted No 9 got injured - something which has happened all-too regularly throughout his career.

Instead, Hohaia's loss of form saw him dropped for the 26-10 win over the Tigers a fortnight ago and Gatis needed no second invitation.

He's provided more impetus from dummy half as well as a slick passing game off the ground and, together with the versatile Rovelli, has taken pressure off Nathan Fien.

"George has been a great buy for us," Cleary added, "and he was pretty cheap as well. He's made it hard for Lance to get back in and that's what you want as a coach."

Luck is what you would call a meat and potatoes-type player. He does the simple things well, tackles himself into the ground and helps hold the team together. In last week's 26-22 win over the Knights, Luck made 20 tackles and eight hit-ups coming off the bench, comparing well with starters Awen Guttenbeil, Wairangi Koopu and Louis Anderson. Perhaps more significantly, Luck made no errors and missed only one tackle all afternoon.

"I always thought Lucky would be good for us because he's a point of difference, not only because of the colour of his hair, but the style of game he plays," Cleary said. "He's a really good balance for us."

It seems all three new Australians provide a really good balance. After two wins on the trot, it's up to them to make sure the team doesn't tip over.


Great to see them playing so well, after being ignored by their own clubs.


Yeah the Aussies have realy brought a fresh lick of paint to the Warriors style and instead of being in the shadows of the more experienced players they are realy showing those old fellas' how it should be done.

I ave no problem with Gatis at Hooker, want to see Rovelli start at halfback some time and Luck will always be that fresh player off the bench that you need.


October last year, Grand Final day..the PL game. Roosters vs Eels. From memory it seemed nearly every Warriros fan had their eyes stuck to the TV coz we all wanted to see how Ravs would do, would he deliver the promise that we had heard about when we signed him?
Funny, after that game the knives seemed to come out on the poor guy from Warriors fans. Some didn't think he was worth it. And yet, here we are several months and five rounds into the competition and I've heard nothing but praise of the guy

As for Luck and Gatis, much like Rovelli they have made some impression. They aren't what anyone would call 'flash in the pants' but they are workers, given a job they put their all out when they hit the field running.

Some still say having Australians at the Warriros is a bad idea; maybe it is. But going back through the years, when you look at the Aussies we've had. Are they really that bad? They've been different, a breath of fresh air. Yes, it would be weird to have an NZ based team full of Aussies. But we ought to be thankful the ones we've gotten through the years have done the business for us. They accepted going to NZ, and have been happy to be apart of this team.

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