League elite set to inspire
A couple of years ago rugby league was almost extinct in Dunedin. Now there is a club competition and the city is about to host its biggest league occasion in years, a Warriors trial game against the Brisbane Broncos. MIKE HOULAHAN talks to new Warriors coach Matthew Elliott about what lies ahead.
Training, video sessions, team photographs . . . it's been a busy Monday for Warriors coach Matthew Elliott.
Fresh from their first trial match over the weekend, the photo shoot with his new charges is yet another milestone towards Elliott's full debut in charge of the Auckland-based league franchise.
The Warriors had their first trial game on Saturday, a 42-24 loss to the Gold Coast Titans.
While the score does not look good on paper, Elliott was happy with what an essentially second-string side, produced.
"Believe it or not, the positives far outweighed the negatives. We weren't disappointed, that's for sure," Elliott said.
"Even though the scoreline was disappointing, we conceded five tries from kicks. While those tries are worth just the same amount, they aren't a difficult issue to solve. Essentially, there wasn't a great deal between the teams and all the guys showed that they have the ability to play at a higher level."
There were not too many household names in the Warriors side that played the Titans but Elliott said to expect the team's stars to be in the mix when the Warriors hit Dunedin.
"We will be playing more experienced line-ups from this weekend. We will use more reserve players than we would for a regular season game but our best available players will play.
"I'm looking forward to coming down for a few reasons. I've heard a lot about the stadium, about the city and I'm excited about representing rugby league in that part of the country, and taking the game to people who haven't seen top level NRL. It's a great opportunity to take the Warriors to the people and show what the sport is like as a live spectacle."
Elliott - a former St George player and Canberra and Penrith coach - said he had been blessed to join the Warriors. Club management had spent a great deal of money on ensuring a top-notch preparation and a first-class player roster was already in place, he said.
"Ultimately what we are in the comp to do is win. It's certainly a challenging thing to do and everyone in the comp recognises that, but that's what we're here for."
Warriors v Broncos, Forsyth Barr Stadium. February 23, 7.30pm.