Warriors could be set for first ever wooden spoon season

19 Jan 23, 1:53PM 0 Comments

Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk

Photo by One NZ Warriors

New Zealand Warriors are about to enter their 29th season in the NRL and are still yet to finish last on the ladder.

While the Warriors have not always experienced the greatest amount of success and are just one of three teams to have never won a premiership, New Zealand’s only NRL team can at least say that they have never been wooden spooners but that could change in 2023.

Last year the Warriors came close to their first last-place finish to a season as they ended up in 15th just four points above the Wests Tigers.

Many people attribute their poor form recently to their absence from New Zealand as the Warriors played the majority of their home games over the past three seasons in Australia due to COVID-19.

However, the aura surrounding their return home was soon dashed as following their homecoming victory against eventual wooden spooners the Wests Tigers, the Warriors lost at home to the Melbourne Storm which broke their four-game losing streak.

New Zealand would then manage just one more win at home against the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs before losing to fellow bottom four side the Gold Coast Titans at Mt Smart Stadium in the final game of the 2022 regular season.

When looking ahead to 2023 some may say that the Warriors look better on paper than they did last season but overall their positives and negatives still largely remain the same.

Despite their poor form the Warriors have still boasted a respectable forward pack with select players such as Josh Curran, Tohu Harris and Adin Fonua-Blake putting on big individual performances at different times last year, often in games their side eventually went on to lose.

Much of the same can be expected from these players in 2023 with the additions of Jackson Ford and Mitchell Barnett not set to make a huge difference with Ford yet to make his mark in the NRL and Barnett unable to produce big efforts as consistently as he did two to three years ago.

While these signings could turn out well for the Warriors at the moment there is too much uncertainty surrounding them.
The same can be said about fellow new signings Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Te Marie Martin, Luke Metcalf and Brayden Wiliame.

Nicoll-Klokstad set the world alight in 2019 as the Canberra Raiders Grand Final fullback but is yet to replicate that form to the point where he spent much of 2022 playing for the Green Machine’s New South Wales Cup side.

Martin’s return to the game in 2022 must be considered a success for what he has overcome but he is still yet to produce the form that suggests he will have a major impact on this Warriors side while Metcalf shows promise but has not gotten a real opportunity to develop in the NRL while Wiliame has never really been able to break into first grade consistently.

Dylan Walker and Marata Niukore are the best signings the Warriors have made with Walker proving one of Manly’s best coming off the bench as a utility player last year and will add x factor to New Zealand’s attack although it is uncertain whether he will start or maintain his role on the bench.

Niukore has been of great service to the 2022 runners-up the Parramatta Eels over the past five seasons and has proven his versatility.

If the Warriors choose to play him in the centres he will greatly improve their edge defence but if he plays in the forwards then he will simply be adding talent to a pack that should not be the club’s main area of concern.

Apart from their new signings and forwards the current key players the Warriors boast are Shaun Johnson whose game dropped a level upon returning to the club last season and is injury-prone, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak who has been quite hit and miss since leaving the Panthers in 2019 and Wayde Egan who has proven to be the club’s workhorse at hooker.

New head coach Andrew Webster is set for a tough first season in the top job and while there is potential in this side to possibly even escape a bottom-four finish there is also a big chance that the New Zealand Warriors will finish last on the NRL ladder for the first time.

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