General Top 8 will be make or break for Warriors


Top eight will be make or break for Warriors
CAPTAIN FANTASTIC: Steve Price will play a huge role in the Warriors' plans for making the NRL top eight in 2007.

The line drawn between the teams finishing in eighth and ninth positions on the final National Rugby League points table in early September will decide whether the Warriors have succeeded or failed.
That thin black line decides not only whether clubs qualify for the playoffs, but it dictates the futures (if any) of coaches and players and whether fans can look with any optimism toward the September 30 grand final.
In their short history the Warriors have advanced past the regular season only three times. They snuck into eighth spot in 2001, were minor premiers and grand finalists in 2002 and fell one game short of another grand final in 2003.
All of those successes were achieved under coach Daniel Anderson, whose current Super League club, St Helens, can boast of being world champion after recently beating the Brisbane Broncos.
Those balmy days, when Warriors-mania swept the country, had ended abruptly by mid-2004, with Anderson being shown a door through which many of his most effective players were also to make their departures.
Sanity has returned to Mt Smart under an administration led by Wayne Scurrah and a coaching staff headed by Ivan Cleary.
Cleary, like Anderson before him, took over when the club, if not quite in crisis, had stumbled to yet another crossroads. Little did he know then that the previous administration had left him that transition from crossroads to crisis.
About the time Cleary was sorting out his lineup to start the 2006 season, the NRL penalised the Warriors four competition points and whacked them with a hefty fine for historical salary cap breaches.
Pundits who had listed the Warriors among their top-eight teams in pre-season previews swiftly put a pencil through their name. Betting agencies markedly shortened the odds of their finishing with the wooden spoon.
Given that the psychological blow from effectively having their first two wins taken from them would have taken weeks to get over, the Warriors did very well in Cleary's first season.
They won 12 of their 24 games, achieved the improbable by beating minor premiers Melbourne Storm at Olympic Park and were a tantalising four points short of making the playoffs.
Which all means that in 2007 there will be no excuses for the Warriors not to do better than that.
If they do not climb above that line drawn beneath eighth then they will have let their supporters down.
Just as the salary cap verdict hit them with the force of a dozen Willie Mason forearm jolts last year, the re-signing of captain Steve Price must have been an enormous stimulus on the eve of this season.
Price, who turned 33 on Monday, gave his adopted club a morale- boosting vote of confidence by agreeing to play on till the end of the 2008 season.
If the prospect of running into action behind Price and equally respected front-rower Ruben Wiki does not inspire the other Warriors then they are not worthy of the name. Trial form means nothing, but the players must have enjoyed scoring 36 points, and conceding only one try, against a useful Canterbury Bulldogs team at North Harbour two weeks ago.
The pre-season preparation has been relatively injury-free, though experienced second-rower Wairangi Koopu and new utility back Aiden Kirk, signed from the Sydney Roosters, are still recovering from off-season surgery.
It took Cleary some time to settle on who should play at hooker and in the halves in 2006. The Warriors did best after he tossed the No 9 jersey to Nathan Fien and partnered scrum-half Grant Rovelli with Jerome Ropati.
Depth in those pivotal positions has been increased during the summer by the acquisition of Michael Witt from Manly. We are heading deeper into the post-Stacey Jones era.
The loss of fullback Brent Webb to Leeds and long-serving second- rower Awen Guttenbeil to Castleford will be regretted, and there was disappointment gifted utility Sione Faumuina made more headlines off the field than on it.
Incoming fullback Wade McKinnon did himself and the club a big favour by scoring a sensational try during the Bulldogs trial.
McKinnon arrived in Auckland a far more established player than Webb had been in 2002, boasting personal statistics from last season that stacked up in comparison to the Kiwis fullback.
There was general agreement Guttenbeil was nearing his use-by date. It is now up to returning Warrior Logan Swann to prove his own effectiveness has not been blunted by three years in England.
What the Warriors most need now is a winning start to the season at Mt Smart Stadium tomorrow night. With that in mind, they could not have a more suitable first-up opponent than the Parramatta Eels, who slithered into that eighth playoff spot with a similar 12-12 record last year.
But the 2007 NRL premiership promises to be even more hotly contested than any in the last decade and there will be little respite. Clubs have only one bye apiece in the next 25 weeks, and the Warriors' break coincides with the Anzac test match in Brisbane.
The champion Broncos gallop into town next week, before the Warriors cross the Tasman to tangle with other serious contenders in the Melbourne Storm and Manly Sea Eagles.


A well written article that unfortuantely offers nothing new. However if we don't make the 8 I hope we do not all jump on the band wagon and call for Cleary's dismissal. I can not think of any successful club the chops and changes its coach all the time.


A well written article that unfortuantely offers nothing new. However if we don't make the 8 I hope we do not all jump on the band wagon and call for Cleary's dismissal. I can not think of any successful club the chops and changes its coach all the time.
Looking through alot of people's predictions this whole week, they've all got the Warrios finishing in the top 8. Quite interesting to note, but otherwise I agree with you, people sometime jump too quickly when it comes to the Warriors, or any NZ team for that matter.