Which way will the wobbly Warriors' season tip?
The answer depends whether you view their glass as half full, or half empty. This one could go either way.
The Warriors have been here, at this crunch stage of an inconsistent campaign, many times before. They are again in desperate need of a late run to make the finals.
Knocking over the Titians, boosted by the possible return of veteran prop Luke Bailey, William Zillman, Beau Champion and Matt White, at the Gold Coast on Saturday is paramount to those aspirations.
"Most times we've had a good run home in terms of the wins we've picked up, but if you are going to play in the finals you want to get there playing well with momentum," Warriors standoff James Maloney said.
At the same point last season, the Warriors pulled off the turnaround, winning seven of their last nine matches to surge to sixth, and on to the grand final.
This year however, there is a sense that that sort of familiar burst may be more difficult, not least because their outside backs continue to falter.
Glen Fisiiahi is the latest finisher set for a lengthy stint on the sidelines. The flying fullback, and wing option, injured a knee in the final contact session before the patchy win over the depleted Cowboys last week.
Warriors coach Brian McClennan indicated Manu Vatuvei could return earlier than expected from minor knee surgery for next week's game against the Broncos in Brisbane, but Fisiiahi's long layoff – up to two months – means rookie Omar Slaimankhel will be thrust in for his third first grade start against the Titans.
With Fisiiahi out and fullback Kevin Locke nursing a corked thigh and injured hamstring, the decision to offload Krisnan Inu to the Bulldogs may have been premature. They could do with his cover.
"It appears his pcl [posterior cruciate ligament] has ruptured," McClennan said of "Fish". "If it is he'll be out for six to eight weeks. It's a real shame. We wanted to give him opportunities. "He hasn't had a lot of luck. He's a very exciting prospect."
McClennan believed Slaimankhel had experienced what was required in stepping up from the NYC. He felt the junior sensation would benefit from a full week's buildup, rather than last-minute callup.
"He's a confident kid, Omar," McClennan said. "He doesn't suffer from any nerves. He believes in himself and that's fantastic. I'm sure he'll come up with a strong performance."
Already without defensive linchpin Micheal Luck, there was concern for blockbusting centre Konrad Hurrell, captain Simon Mannering and Locke, who all sat out yesterday's training, but McClennan was confident he wouldn't lose any more troops.
"They were doing rehab. Reports back are pretty promising. All players are expected to train in our last session," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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