NZ Warriors wary of prop Paul Gallen's return

Last updated 05:00 10/08/2014
Paul Gallen
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PRESENCE: Paul Gallen is an inspirational leader for the Cronulla Sharks.

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Oh, how the Warriors' fortunes have changed since the team last played the Sharks.

Back in April they suffered their biggest loss of the season, going down 37-6 at Remondis Stadium in Sydney.

Just a couple of days later their coach, Matt Elliott, was given the heave-ho.

That day the Warriors made 375 tackles but crucially missed 29, conceded eight penalties and made 13 errors. The side broke the line only twice, to the Sharks' eight.

This time round the Warriors come into the game, at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland today, as firm favourites, despite two of their best players in Shaun Johnson and Konrad Hurrell sitting in the stands with injury.

The Sharks, on the other hand, sit on the bottom of the table with a stand-in coach and a wretched run of results.

Former Sharks player and now Warriors half Chad Townsend said his old club would be hurting.

"One thing about the Sharks, and knowing the boys, is that they never give in. They are a resilient side no matter what's happening on the field and off the field.

"I have got a lot of great mates there and I am expecting a tough game."

For Townsend, playing his old mates means a little bit more niggle on the field and a few more sledges, but he will be happy if the result goes the Warriors way.

"Last time it wasn't a great result for us and we will be looking to make up for that.

"We just made far too many errors. It was disappointing for us, we were just trying to kick off our season."

Townsend said the game, on reflection, was a turning point in the side's season.

"There has been a change in coach and a change in attitude throughout the whole organisation. It has been a real positive move.

"Ever since [coach Andrew McFadden] stepped in there has been a real attitude change in our defensive line."

The Warriors will also be aiming to get rid of a record which has, this season, seen them lose every time they come off a big win.

With the 54-18 pummelling of the Raiders in Canberra last weekend, the side will need to be aware of being complacent.

"We played some good footy on the weekend and defended really well up until that last five minutes, but this time of the year you want to be playing your best footy and I thought last week was a step in the right direction."

Townsend said there was disappointment about the three tries let in within the last five minutes.

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"Even though we had one player down we didn't want to use that as an excuse.

"We didn't fill the space, and some people might have thought the easy option was just to let in a couple of tries."

Sharks captain Paul Gallen returns from injury, which Townsend expects will provide a distinct boost.

"Everything comes off the back of him. He is one of the most competitive people I know and he will be revving them up. He is one boy we need to stop."

The Sharks have a massive forward pack, something McFadden is wary of.

There was no risk of the Warriors taking the Sharks lightly, despite the team being last on the NRL ladder, having won only five games this season.

"They are a very dangerous side, Cronulla. They have some real strike there - a big forward pack and the physical side of the game is going to be important."

- Sunday Star Times

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