Warriors confident with depth heading into start of the season
Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/news/110928694/-

2019-02-28 21:52:52

Much of the talk around the Warriors this pre-season has centred on the players that have departed, but could the club actually start the season with a deeper all-round squad than last year?

Leeson Ah Mau is the only new recruit with significant NRL experience, the New Zealand and Samoa international joined by middle forward Lachlan Burr and halves contender Adam Keighran following the exits of Shaun Johnson, Simon Mannering, James Gavet and Mason Lino.

Somes positions are stronger than others. There's little doubt that an injury to playmaker Blake Green would leave the club in serious trouble in the halves. Although, Johnson's release has freed up space in the salary to strengthen that area should the right player become available.

But recruitment is only one part of the depth equation and it's the growth within the squad that has been encouraging for coach Stephen Kearney.

Kearney pointed to an improvement in training standards across the board compared to last pre-season, driven by strong internal competition.‚Äč

The Warriors have named a 26-man squad for Saturday's trial against Wests Tigers in Whangarei, with several fringe players also included in the reserve grade team.

And a look at the latter side highlights some of the depth available to Kearney.

The squad to face Western Suburbs in the early game includes six players with NRL experience, including Leivaha Pulu, Chris Satae and Karl Lawton, as well as promising youngsters Hayze Perham and Patrick Herbert, who was one of the best on the field during last week's win over the Storm.

"I thought last year... the gap between player A and - if we've got a squad of 30 - player 30, there was a vast difference. Whereas I think now that's squeezed right up," Kearney said. "Guys are really challenging each other and it's that competition, competing against each other has really pushed that.

"So the depth is up because individuals have upped their physical condition, upped their football awareness, competitive instincts. So I'm pretty comfortable with the depth."

One player making his presence felt is former Bulldog Burr, whose performance against Melbourne was singled out by the coach.

Burr impressed with his work rate and go-forward, while showing his ball-playing ability with an offload to set up Perham's match-winning try.

Kearney has indicated a spot is up for grabs in the middle for round one and Burr has another chance to push his case against the Tigers on Saturday.

"It was good to blow out the cobwebs," Burr said. "The team ripped in and we all worked hard for each other. So for our first hit out I thought we did pretty well.

"It's one step closer. I've still got a bit to work on. This week I've just got to rip in and see what happens."

The well-travelled Burr made his NRL debut for the Bulldogs in 2013 before playing 23 games at the Titans, followed by a stint in the UK Super League with Leigh.

He returned to Belmore in 2018, earning the club's reserve grade player of the year award but failed to break into the first grade side.

Having signed with the Warriors for the next two seasons, the 26-year-old is determined to make the most of what could be his last opportunity in the NRL.

"I'm in that mindset and basically it is. I'm 27 (in September) so I need to rip in these next two years," Burr added.

"The Bulldogs did offer me a contract but it wasn't really what I was looking for. I got thrown a lifeline over here and I just want to rip in and be a consistent first grader."

AT A GLANCE

NRL TRIALS

Warriors vs Wests Tigers 5pm Saturday, Northland Events Centre, Whangarei

Warriors squad: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c), Bunty Afoa, Leeson Ah Mau, Blake Ayshford, Gerard Beale, Adam Blair, Lachlan Burr, David Fusitu'a, Blake Green, Tohu Harris, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Patrick Herbert, Peta Hiku, Solomone Kata, Adam Keighran, Karl Lawton, Sam Lisone, Ken Maumalo, Agnatius Paasi, Isaiah Papali'i, Hayze Perham, Adam Pompey, Leivaha Pulu, Nathaniel Roache, Ligi Sao, Jazz Tevaga.

Wests Tigers: Moses Mbye, Corey Thompson, Robert Jennings, Esan Marsters, David Nofoaluma, Benji Marshall, Luke Brooks, Russell Packer, Robbie Farah, Ben Matulino, Luke Garner, Ryan Matterson, Elijah Taylor. Interchange: Josh Reynolds, Matt Eisenhuth, Alex Twal, Michael Chee Kam, Mahe Fonua, Chris McQueen, Jacob Liddle, Thomas Mikaele

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