Warriors 'confident in who we have' but how deep does the squad go?
Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/news/110496530/-

2019-02-12 02:39:03

ANALYSIS: The Warriors are two weeks out from their first pre-season match and despite a quiet year in the way of recruitment, the club seem at ease with who they have.

General manager of football Brian Smith told Stuff he and the coaching staff were happy with the players being put through their paces in Penrose, and he was not concerned with the club's perceived lack of assertiveness over the off-season.

"As a department we're pretty much where we would like to be at this time of the year," he said.

"From NRL level right through the grades there has been a noticeable lift in intensity, and we are pleased with the things taken out of our many reviews - that's coaching and players."

However, while there is no denying the Warriors can field a formidable, contender-level starting 17, the same can't be said in full confidence about their depth.

The reserve stocks took another hit last week when versatile outside back Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was granted a release to join the Canberra Raiders. His departure came after the club had already lost valuable back-ups James Gavet, Anthony Gelling and Mason Lino.

As it stands here's how deep the Warriors are in every position, two weeks out from the first ball being kicked.

Fullback (incumbent): Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

Depth: Gerard Beale, Hayze Perham

Grade: C+

The loss of Nicoll-Klokstad means there are no out-and-out fullbacks other than the skipper left on the books.

The club sees young gun Perham as more of a five-eighth nowadays, meaning Beale is the only genuine cover at the back - though a handy one at that.

Wing: David Fusitu'a, Ken Maumalo

Depth: Gerard Beale, Lewis Soosemea

Grade: C

You can basically put Beale down as cover for every spot 1 through 6, but other than that the wing stocks are slim.

Exciting outside back Soosemea lit up the ISP competition last year, but is yet to earn a cap at NRL level. If either Fusitu'a or Maumalo go down this year, he could be the next man up.

Centre: Solomone Kata, Peta Hiku

Depth: Blake Ayshford, Gerard Beale, David Fusitu'a, Karl Lawton

Grade: A-

The Warriors have both centre positions comfortably covered

Beale has played test matches and NRL finals in the position while Ayshford is a veteran of more than 150 first grade games.

Halves: Blake Green

Depth: Adam Keighran, Hayze Perham, Chanel Harris-Tavita

Grade: C

The biggest question of the off-season has been who will partner Blake Green in the halves, and it's one that will likely remain unanswered right up until round one.

Shaun Johnson is gone and coach Stephen Kearney has outlined that it's a three-horse race to find his replacement - all three are NRL rookies - though Aussie recruit Keighran looks, from the outside at least, to have his nose in front.

Depth at the position has been long covered by Lino but, with his departure and no marquee signings, the Warriors are thin in the play-making department.

Smith said Green's recent hamstring injury had actually been somewhat of a blessing for the young trio, who have had to step up on the training paddock.

"All three boys, physically are already there (NRL level). They're very big and quick for the position," he said.

"Blake's injury means over the trial periods those guys have the opportunity to take his minutes and really push for a spot. Knowing Greeny he will have himself right to go by probably that last trial but in the meantime, at trainings etc, those other guys have had to step up and it's been great for their collective development."

Prop: Leeson Ah Mau, Agnatius Paasi

Depth: Bunty Afoa, Sam Lisone, Tevita Satae, Lachlan Burr

Grade: B+

Like centre, the front row is an area in which the Warriors would be pretty pleased with their depth.

Gavet is gone but ithe club secured the services of test prop Ah Mau.

The former Dragon, coupled with another year of experience for the likes of Paasi, Afoa and Satae, should serve the New Zealand forward pack well.

Hooker: Issac Luke

Depth: Nate Roache, Karl Lawton, Jazz Tevaga, Sam Cook

Grade: B+

Fans will be encouraged to see the long-awaited return of Roache after he suffered a serious back injury that ruled him out of the entire 2018 campaign.

Gold Coast recruit Lawton also proved he was more than up to NRL standard in his limited opportunities last season, so Kearney will be comfortable overall with his dummy-half options should Luke suffer any kind of injury.

Second row: Isaiah Papali'i, Adam Blair, Tohu Harris

Depth: Leivaha Pulu, Jazz Tevaga, Ligi Sao, Lachlan Burr

Grade: B

Good without being great. The Warriors' Warriors back-row depth has experience but not a lot of explosiveness.

Tevaga proved last year he is a handy interchange forward and will likely find himself back in the No 14 jumper for round one.

Pulu and Sao have NRL experience and there is a lot of expectation around Burr's arrival as well. He was the Bulldogs' reserve grade player of the year last season and before that played 23 games for the Titans between 2015-16.

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