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Chance for New Zealand Warriors to make a statement against Roosters

Dynamic: Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson (second from left). The New Zealand Warriors are a team on the rise, however they face a moment of truth when they take on the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium this afternoon.
Nanjing Night Net

The Warriors came into this round of football in fourth position on the premiership ladder.

They have won six of their past eight matches, including big wins in their past three outings over the Storm, Raiders and Titans, scoring a total of 96 points and conceding only 36 points in the process.

In fact, the Warriors’ most recent loss was at the hands of today’s opponents back on home soil, when the Roosters produced a Blake Ferguson try in the last seconds of play to snatch a 25-21 victory.

The Warriors should be treating today’s challenge as an early dress rehearsal for finals football. If they are to be considered as serious title contenders, they need to perform well against the premiership favourites this afternoon in Sydney.

I’m sure they will.

Because the Warriors rarely appear on free-to-air television in Australia, many rugby league fans may be unaware of the emerging young talents in this team.

The highlight of this match could well be the battle between the star-studded Roosters outside backs and their talented, but lesser-known, Warriors opponents.

Roosters flyers Michael Jennings, Blake Ferguson and Shaun Kenny-Dowall have been in sparkling try-scoring form of late. However, they would not want to be underestimating the talents of youngsters Tuimaeala Lolohea, David Fusitu’a and Solomone Kata. These New Zealand boys might not be household names in this part of the world, but they are developing a huge following in their homeland and I’m sure all these lads will be out to prove a point against be Roosters this afternoon.

Key to the Warriors chances will be the contribution of their brilliant halfback, Shaun Johnson. This young man is a sensation. Best known for his brilliance, unpredictability and flamboyance, Johnson is now staring to develop real reliability and stability in his game. This, in turn, has helped a number of the other Warriors players to develop their games around the unique skill set of their halfback.

The battle of the big men up front should also be entertaining. The Warriors’ representative pair of Ben Matulino and Jacob Lillyman need to match the Roosters’ Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Sam Moa and Dylan Napa. I am anticipating some fireworks here.

Given the prospect of dry daytime conditions for the Sunday afternoon clash, I anticipate this being one of the fastest-moving matches of the season so far.

If you have never seen this Warriors team play live, do yourself a favour and get out to the footy this afternoon. You won’t regret making the effort.


From a long-term perspective, I am not the least bit concerned about Friday night’s 52-10 loss by the Panthers to the Melbourne Storm.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a good old-fashioned thumping and no one likes to be on the wrong end of such a lopsided scoreline. But I’ve honestly seen worse. You are going to experience days like this from time to time during your football career. You really have no option but to man up and cop it on the chin.

The Panthers never really got themselves in the hunt against a highly motivated football team that displayed great enterprise and precision in their execution.

We could go through the video of the match and highlight fault after fault in the Panther performance. To be honest, though, I think this loss was more in the minds of the players than anything to do with ability.

The coaches and players will understandably be hurting, but in the overall scheme of things, I see this tough period the Panthers are experiencing as toughening the skin and the mentality of our youngsters for future years.

When a club suffers as many disruptions through injury as the Panthers have encountered this year, it’s not uncommon for it to reach breaking point at different stages of the season. If the Panthers were ever going to get trounced by a big margin, the scenario leading into Friday night’s match was almost the perfect recipe for such a result.

It was a big occasion for the Storm and their captain, Cameron Smith. The Panthers were down on troops and confidence with a number of players forced to play out of position. They ran into a very talented and committed Storm side that enjoyed a glut of possession and the bounce of the ball all night. It all became a bit too much. It happens.

The important thing now is what the youngsters learnt from the match and how they bounce back in the coming weeks to produce some good performances between now and the end of the season.

I’m a very patient man. I know this team is building nicely for the future.

In the meantime, I don’t care about wins and losses. I do care about individuals being able to play to their ability and whole-heartedly contributing to an 80-minute team effort. The score should never affect your attitude or your ability to play to your best.

Nobody who ever gave his best, regretted it.


The 2015 version of the Canterbury Bulldogs has me very intrigued to say the least.

I have this feeling in my guts that they are a very good football team, capable of producing premiership-winning performances when the time comes. However, on a week-to-week basis, they are consistently inconsistent and only fleetingly do they ever give us a glimpse of their absolute best.

The Bulldogs have managed to win five of their past seven matches. Prior to this, they won only one of their previous six games. They sit in seventh position on the ladder, scoring a total of 346 points and conceding 336. Some of their victories have been convincing. At other times they seemingly know how to do just enough to get the result.

On Friday night they produced what I’d describe as a mainly “clunky” performance, interspersed with some wonderful moments of absolute brilliance. They weren’t great, and certainly nowhere near their best, but by the end of the contest they’d secured themselves a stress-free 28-4 victory over the Eels.

This Bulldogs team possesses the necessary muscle up front with a big, strong and creative pack of forwards. How many teams in the NRL could boast players such as Sam Kasiano and David Klemmer on their bench?

When the big guys do their job halves Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds really come into their own.

The Dogs also have a slick group of outside backs with the Morris twins, Tim Lafai, Sam Perrett and Curtis Rona. These guys can produce the tries when they are needed.

Most of all, when the Bulldogs put their collective minds to the task, they have the steel and mentality to outplay pretty much all comers. This trait has become a real feature of Des Hasler coached teams – the ability to lift for the games that count.

This side may not qualify for the finals in the top four. However, I’m confident they will be among the last four standing when the preliminary finals roll around.

Put your money on Des to get them there.


I received the following question from a league fan on my Twitter account this week (@Gus10Gould). It read as follows: “Gus I have a junior league question for you. A team is leading by 2 points with ten minutes to go. They have 12 players and start a brawl and get 4 players sent off. They now have less than the minimum 9 players required on the field. The other team has 11 players and gets one sent off. Who gets awarded the 2 competition points?”

So, let me get this straight: this is a junior rugby league match; one team is already down to 12 men and gets four more sent off; the other team is already down to 11 men and gets one more sent off. And the most important thing you are concerned about is which team should get the twocompetition points? This is what you take from this situation?

Please. No wonder we have problems at junior league venues.

I think your major question should be about the behaviour of the kids playing in the two teams. If what you say is correct, then both sides should be suspended from playing in the competition for at least a month. And neither team deserves the two points!

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