Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
The New Zealand Warriors had a good chance of making the top eight in 2021, but a run of poor form in the middle of the year saw them ruled out entirely.
A group of signings headed up by a returning club legend will look to help change things at the club, as the Warriors look to qualify for their first finals series since 2018.
Shaun Johnson made his NRL debut for the Warriors back in 2011 where he led them to their second NRL Grand Final in club history.
Following a three-season stint at the Sharks, Johnson is returning to New Zealand as a veteran that Warriors fans will hope can lead their team back to the same heights he has before.
Aaron Pene certainly did not take a short route to the NRL, making his debut at 25-years-old for the Melbourne Storm in 2020.
He’ll be looking for more of a profound role in his side now that the prop is at the Warriors, as playing first grade consistently will be Pene’s goal.
Originally signed by the Warriors on a train-and-trial deal, Ash Taylor put in the work this offseason and earned himself a full-time contract at the club.
The halfback’s NRL career has been up and down thus far, to say the least, but a fresh start at a new club may just be what Taylor needs to find his form.
DYLAN WALKER (2023)
Dylan Walker started to improve immensely towards the end of 2021 once he was moved into the bench utility role and has signed on with the Warriors for 2023.
Walker will now look to build on a great end to last season and show the Warriors that they have made a worthwhile investment before he joins the club next year.
QUESTIONS HEADING INTO 2022
WHO WILL PARTNER JOHNSON IN THE HALVES?
New Zealand’s head coach Nathan Brown will have hopefully selected Shaun Johnson’s halves partner for season 2022 by now; however, just about everyone outside the club has no idea who will be wearing the number six jersey for the Warriors.
The three top contenders for the position would have to be Ash Taylor, Chanel Harris-Tevita and Kodi Nikorima, as all three have played in the halves in the NRL previously.
CAN THE FORWARDS STAY FIT?
One of New Zealand’s biggest positives is their big and imposing forward pack, but it also became a hindrance in 2021 when key players started getting injured.
If the likes of Addin Fonua-Blake and Ben Murdoch-Masila can remain fit for the duration of the regular season the Warriors could come close to a return to the finals.
CAN REECE WALSH STEP UP?
Recent reports suggest Reece Walsh is looking to leave the Warriors at the end of 2022 which has cast doubt in the minds of many that he will perform at a similar level to what he did last season.
The dreaded second-year syndrome is something every player coming off of a great rookie season wants to avoid.
1. Reece Walsh
2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
3. Rocco Berry
4. Euan Aitken
5. Marcelo Montoya
6. Chanel Harris-Tevita
7. Shaun Johnson
8. Addin Fonua-Blake
9. Jazz Tevaga
10. Matt Lodge
11. Eliesa Katoa
12. Tohu Harris ©
13. Joshua Curran
14. Ash Taylor
15. Aaron Pene
16. Ben Murdoch-Masila
17. Bunty Afoa