General Warriors can kick on, but need more magic - Endacott



The New Zealand Warriors have set themselves a platform to build on for next season's NRL season, former coach Frank Endacott has said.

But whether they quite had the right mix yet in their personnel to win a grand final was open to question.
The Warriors' 2007 campaign ended in the Townsville heat yesterday as North Queensland scorched to a runaway 49-12 victory in their elimination semifinal.
Like their narrow opening playoff defeat at home to Parramatta the previous weekend, the Warriors were undone by an inability to complete their sets.
Possession was conceded cheaply, which meant they again had to pull off far more tackles than their opponents - this time a particularly huge discrepancy of 328 to 206.
But Endacott, the former Kiwi coach who also guided the Warriors for two seasons in the late 1990s, saw plenty of encouraging signs for the future.
"Over the whole season they can be very, very satisfied," he said.
"It's a very good foundation for better things to come and I think they learnt a lot about themselves."
Endacott said a major highlight was the way the club turned around a mid-season slump of six consecutive losses to win nine and draw one of their next 12 matches.
The reversal of fortunes resulted in the Warriors ending the minor premiership in fourth spot and making the playoffs for the first time in four years.
Endacott regarded the Warriors' pack, led by veterans Steve Price and Ruben Wiki and with youngster Sam Rapira developing into a quality frontrower, as one of the best in the competition.
They were strong in other parts of the field as well, and he said coach Ivan Cleary, with his "cool, calm and collected" approach, was someone he could see in the job for a few years to come.
The main reservations Endacott had about whether the Warriors could achieve grand final success in 2008 was their lack of game-breaking halves, describing Grant Rovelli and Michael Witt as "solid" performers.
"I see the Warriors kicking on and going up another step next year," he said.
"But to go on and win a grand final, you need special players. At the moment, I don't think they have that in positions that count."
The Warriors finished the year with 13 wins, 12 losses and the extra-time draw with the Sydney Roosters.
Their star performer was skipper Price, who led from the front in record fashion.
The 4515 metres the prop gained in his 23 games - he missed the three others through Queensland State of Origin duty - was the best for a forward in an NRL season since records began in 1998.
Price's efforts secured him the Dally M skipper and prop of the year prizes, and he also became the first person to take the Warriors' player of the year award twice.
Among others to stand out was combative fullback Wade McKinnon, whose kick returns launched many an attack.
Also impressive was Witt's goalkicking after being given the duties in mid-season.
His 62 goals from 67 attempts represented a 93 percent success rate, the highest in the league.
Four players featured in every match - Rapira, hooker Nathan Fien, backrower Micheal Luck and centre Simon Mannering.
Luck's feat meant he has not missed a fixture since joining the Warriors from the Cowboys at the start of last season, stringing together 50 consecutive appearances.
The Warriors' exit at Townsville meant a trio of players played their last match for the club - hooker George Gatis and centre Tony Martin, who are headed to English Super League clubs, and three-quarter Todd Byrne.
Confirmed arrivals for next season are Kangaroo and Queensland Origin back Brent Tate from Brisbane and Scottish-born Bradford hooker Ian Henderson.
Meanwhile, the Warriors showed they could pull a crowd - as long as they were winning.
Their last three home matches drew attendances that grew from 20,609 to 28,745 as club management increased capacity to cope with demand. But before then, their average gate for the season was the league's second lowest at just 11,302.


Frustrating end to Warriors' mixed year

The New Zealand Warriors should be satisfied by an improvement in consistency in 2007 yet frustrated by the manner in which their National Rugby League campaign ended.

Expectations were modest before the season's start and few predicted a top-four finish - but they bowed out in disappointing fashion, blowing chance after chance in their home final against Parramatta and overcoming the brilliance of Cowboy Johnathan Thurston in the Townsville heat proved a bridge too far last Sunday.
Comparisons with the 2002 grand final Warriors had begun, but that side had more gamebreakers than Ivan Cleary's men and crucially a champion halfback in Stacey Jones.
The Warriors were noticeably more "coached" than previous incarnations, delivering a measure of consistency not normally associated with the club.
They were thrashed only twice all year, by premiership hopefuls Parramatta and North Queensland, which is unusual in a competition where sides get on a roll and run away with games.
Superb leadership from captain Steve Price, dynamic running from fullback Wade McKinnon and the development of Sam Rapira, Epalahame Lauaki, Evarn Tuimavave and Jerome Ropati meant expectations soared during the late season run.
But in terms of total finals matches played, the Warriors were the least experienced side of the top eight, and Cleary, himself a young coach, was right in saying they would be better for the lessons learnt.
"It was a good experience to go through, in a weird sort of way. It highlighted some things - we're obviously not ready but we're not far off," he said. "It was really disappointing, I didn't see it coming and it's not indicative of what we've done over the last two years."
Brent Tate's $400,000 a year signing was an expensive plunge - and arguably could have been better spent on an established playmaker - but assuming he recovers from his knee surgery will provide speed, thrust and big match experience in the centres.
Mr Consistency Simon Mannering may be moved back into the forwards to accommodate Tate with Ropati finding a home in the centres this season.
Premierships are often won by the team that has the most luck with injuries.
The banged-up Cowboys are hoping to disprove that theory.
The Warriors sorely missed Manu Vatuvei and Ropati's attacking impetus out wide in their two lost finals.
The questions for next year surround how effectively Price, who treats his body as a temple, and Ruben Wiki, troubled by a rib injury this year, can lay the platform again, in what will likely be the legendary duo's NRL swansongs.
Halves Grant Rovelli and Michael Witt are a no-frills pairing and need forward dominance to be truly effective.
Tate will help provide spark, and an outside backline comprising him, McKinnon, Ropati, Vatuvei and Michael Crockett has a more than useful look to it. Wellington second rower Ben Matulino joins thc club next year, hopeful of following Mannering's footsteps into the NRL.
Coming: Brent Tate (centre/wing), Ian Henderson (hooker) Going: Tony Martin (centre), Todd Byrne (centre/wing), George Gatis (hooker), Louis Anderson (utility forward).


Witt tells of long-term bond,22049,22424007-5006066,00.html

STEVE Price remembers the fiery six-year-old who one day sparked a fight before nearly being sent from Toowoomba's Newtown Oval.
The Warriors skipper also remembers the phone call that reignited the career of Michael Witt.
The team photo is the start of a story that stretches 17 years, over two countries and almost 3000km.
A 16-year-old Price coached the Toowoomba Newtown Lions under-7s, and Witt was his star player.
"We didn't really have positions at that age but he was always very competitive and was always quite feisty,'' Price recalled.
"He would always get into fights on the field and more often than not I would be talking to his brother (Steven) about him being sent off.
"He was very talented and was one of those kids that would set up tries, score tries and kick goals from everywhere. I just never thought I'd be playing with him.''
The pair lived "about 400m'' from each other. Every afternoon, Price would join Witt and his older brother Steven "with a footy under the arm''.
The following year Price was lured to the Bulldogs, and followed Witt's every move.
"It was nice knowing that you could still hit the big time,'' Witt said.
"I really looked up to him and he set a platform for a lot of players, including myself.''
Spotted by Parramatta in 1999, Witt made his NRL debut in 2003 before being told in late 2004 that he was no longer in the Eels' plans.
He joined Manly in 2005 but was suspended for the start of the 2006 season, handing Travis Burns first shot at the No.6 jersey. After playing just one NRL game for Manly last season, Witt called his former under-7s coach.
"I rang Steve to ask him about the club and what it was like,'' Witt said.
"He had massive wraps on the whole organisation and he enjoyed living in Auckland.
"It made my decision a lot easier to know that he and his family were loving it.''
Witt has played 24 games this year, with a goal-kicking strike rate of 92.3 per cent, putting him on track to pass Daryl Halligan's record (87.1 per cent) set in 2000. He also recently extended his contract until the end of 2009.
"I moved out of home to play football at 16 but it's gone pretty quick,'' Witt said.
"But I guess all those years ago I never thought I'd end up playing in the same team as my coach.''

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