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2018 in review: Warriors begin with a hiss and roar, but fizzle out in NRL play-offs

NRL experts and former players predicted that the Warriors were going to be top candidates for the wooden spoon in 2018 – but the New Zealand NRL side had other plans proving many doubters wrong.

Stephen Kearney had a lot of pressure on him to get results, especially it being his second year in charge of the Warriors.

The New Zealand side turned up in the opening round fit and hungry, toppling South Sydney 32-20 in round one in Perth.

They went onto win five on the trot and their new recruits Tohu Harris, Adam Blair, Blake Green and Agnatius Paasi proved worthy buys.

Adam Blair. Canberra Raiders v Vodafone Warriors, NRL Rugby League. GIO Stadium, Canberra, Australia. 24th March 2018. Copyright Photo: David Neilson / www.photosport.nz
Warriors forward Adam Blair in action against the Raiders. Source: Photosport

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck led the way for the Warriors this year, putting in big defensive efforts to set the tone for his team.

He took it upon himself to get his side on the front foot with his strong carries – he had the most ball runs, most ball run metres, most kick return metres, most effective offloads for the Warriors and made over 100 tackle breaks in 2018.

Tuivasa-Sheck deservedly went onto win the NRL’s most prestigious Dally M Medal award in September.

Consistency was something the Warriors struggled with in previous years, but 2018 we saw a new attitude and mindset amongst the players.

The New Zealand side won seven home games and lost five this year. And managed eight away wins and suffered four away losses.
David Fusitu'a was a lethal finisher for the Warriors, scoring an overall of 22 tries in 2018.

Discipline was an area of concern for the Warriors, with players like Blair and Issac Luke handing over far too easy possession for their opposition.

Luke was outstanding on attack for the Warriors, looking trim and fit and the Issac Luke of old.

Shaun Johnson was hot and cold this season, he was sensational for the Warriors in round three. Guiding the New Zealand side to a 20-19 victory over the Canberra Raiders, landing clutch back-to-back field goals late in the game.

Shaun Johnson.
NRL Premiership rugby league. Vodafone Warriors v Canberra Raiders. Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand. Friday 31 August 2018. © Copyright photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz
Shaun Johnson in action for the Warriors against Canberra Raiders at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland. Source: Photosport

The Warriors finished eighth on the NRL ladder and were ultimately outclassed in the first round of the NRL play-offs, where they were defeated 27-12 by the Penrith Panthers.

After losing their skipper Tuivasa-Sheck in the second spell to a knee injury, the Warriors ran out of steam and couldn't piece together any solid sets to get over the try-line.

The Warriors' relationship with Shaun Johnson reached it's ultimate breaking point in October when their CEO Cameron George advised the star half to test the market.

Johnson asked for a release from his final year of his contract and went onto sign a three-year deal with the Cronulla Sharks.

Despite the end of year drama with Johnson choosing to leave, the Warriors returned to the NRL play-offs for the first time since 2011.

And with Johnson out the door, another one could open for a new young half to fill the void left by the Kiwis star half.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
NRL Premiership rugby league. Vodafone Warriors v Canberra Raiders. Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand. Friday 31 August 2018. © Copyright photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz
Source: Photosport