The best - and worst - of the NZ Warriors

Last updated 11:53 09/09/2012
Ben Matulino
BEACON OF HOPE: Prop Ben Matulino was the Warriors' most consistent throughout the season, becoming one of the best props in the world.

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The darkest hour, as they say, comes right before the dawn. That being said, dawn seems a long way off at Mt Smart Stadium these days after a truly horrific season for the Warriors. Ben Stanley runs the rule over the side's best, and worst, this year.

LEWIS BROWN (24 games, 4 tries)

One of six players to appear in every game this season. It's hard to fault his professionalism, effort and vigour, yet the former Tigers hooker hasn't enjoyed consistency at all and will probably be happier playing under "Dad" (Ivan Cleary) at the Panthers next year. Rating: 6/10

GLEN FISIIAHI (4 games, 1 try)

Injuries to incumbent No 1 Kevin Locke served up some time in the first-grade for the "Flying Fish" but a knee injury during training in early July left his chances of consolidating the spot in tatters. Rating: Not enough games.

NATHAN FRIEND (17 games, 2 tries)

Much publicised as the Warriors only 2012 signing, the veteran hooker has been the definition of rock-solid for the club. The Micheal Luck of the No 9 jersey, Friend is a tackling machine but the Warriors have been missing inventiveness out of dummy half . Rating: 6.5/10

PITA GODINET (4 games, 1 try)

Out of favour for the first-grade for most of the season, Godinet got a deserved run against the Raiders last week and looked magnificent. Needs to feature more next year. Rating: Not enough games.

BEN HENRY (24 games, 8 tries)

The surprise package of 2012. A hard-working, mature young man, Henry has showed steel for the Warriors on defence, and has even popped up with some nice support tries on attack. Needs work on positioning, and should be destined for the second row next year. Rating: 7/10

KONRAD HURRELL (17 games, 12 tries)

Another bright spot for the Warriors this season has been the emergence of Hurrell. The Tongan Torpedo has been a massive asset on attack, turning opposition defensive lines to rubble with his bullocking runs. His defence, however, is terrible, despite small improvements over the year. Has been likened to Kiwis legend Olsen Filipaina and has the work ethic to fill those hefty boots. Rating: 7/10

SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO (4 games, 0 tries)

A young man with a big motor, who should never have been called on in 2012. Injuries meant otherwise. Easing into the first grade through the Vulcans should be the tonic next season. Rating: Not enough games.

KRISNAN INU (3 games, 1 try)

If two words could sum up a season, they are: Krisnan and Inu. A talented, but troublesome player for the Warriors, turned potential Premiership winner for the Doggies. 'Nuff said. Rating: Not enough games.

SHAUN JOHNSON (22 games, 12 tries)

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After a stunning debut in 2011, it was always going to be hard for "Magic" Johnson to stay at the same level. Had flashes of brilliancewith his running game but his kicking has sometimes been lacking. Usually mature and professional, but his poorly-timed comments about potentially playing Olympic sevens rubbed many up the wrong way - and led to being dropped for final match. Rating: 6.5/10

JACOB LILLYMAN (16 games, 2 tries)

A bicep injury meant Lillyman sat out the Warriors' opening 10 matches. Hasn't been at his best this year - sense a theme? - but does all the things a member of a first-grade propping battery should - making metres and tackles, and pushing the team forward. In a young team shorn of Micheal Luck, may need to be more of a leader in 2013. Rating: 6/10

KEVIN LOCKE (14 games, 7 tries)

When on the paddock, Locke has been the usual attacking asset for the Warriors at the back of the park. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened regularly this year, with knee and sternum injuries consigning him to the sidelines for large tracts. Has been sorely missed. Rating: 7/10

SIONE LOUSI (22 games, 1 try)

After constant injuries and reports of a poor attitude to training, not much was expected of Lousi at the beginning of the season. How he has turned the doubters around - Lousi has been one of the Warriors most consistent ball carriers in a poor season. Solid, and largely dependable, Lousi is prone to the odd error and defensive mishap, but, overall, a great return in 2012. Rating: 7/10

SAM LOUSI (2 games, 0 tries)

Another promoted, thanks to injuries, the younger Lousi was in first grade before his time. Yet the second rower is immensely rated at the club, and could turn into a real star given time. Rating: Not enough games.

MICHEAL LUCK (6 games, 0 tries)

An unfortunate end to the career of a true champion. Luck has been the heart and soul of the Warriors defence since his debut in 2006, and his absence has had a massive effect on the team's direction on the park this year. Deserved a better send-off last Sunday, with a win rather than the eventual dismal loss to the Raiders. Rating: Not enough games.

JAMES MALONEY (24 games, 4 tries)

After starring last year, much was expected of the yappy standoff in 2012. The simple truth is - he failed to deliver. Maybe his mind was already on his deal with the Roosters but, especially in the second half of the season, his kicking game, running and composure were sorely lacking. Rating: 4/10

SIMON MANNERING (19 games, 3 tries)

You know what you get with Mannering; a hard-running, hard- tackling second rower who doesn't back off a challenge and gives it his all. Same again this season, despite some mistakes. Rating: 6.5/10

ALEHANA MARA (6 games, 0 tries)

An ideal understudy at hooker, Mara got a number of games when incumbent No 9 Nathan Friend broke his jaw mid-year. Explosive out of dummy half, Mara enjoyed his spell at first grade but injury robbed him of more game-time. Rating: Not enough games.

FELETI MATEO (24 games, 3 tries)

While Mateo didn't have his best year , there was plenty to like about the Sydneysider in 2012. Inventive as always in the tackle, the NRL offload king holds the crown so far this year (with 59), though Sharks skipper Paul Gallen could pass him in the playoffs. A potent attacking weapon who may see more time at No 6 in 2013 after a sublime outing last week. Rating: 7/10

BEN MATULINO (22 games, 3 tries)

There's no other way to frame it: Matulino has become one of the world's top front rowers. He's been combative in the tackle as always, and the 23-year-old's running game has reached a new level, meaning second and third tackles have delivered consistent metres this year. At times, the gulf between him and the other forwards was sadly obvious. Rating: 8/10

RUSSELL PACKER (24 games, 0 tries)

After a breakout 2011, Packer would have been looking to consolidate this season. But despite a good first half to the year, he hasn't. Metres over the last few games have been down, while his line-breaking ability has not come on the way the club would have hoped. He's back next year - and the next Warriors coach might need to apply a bit of "tough love" to get Foxton's Finest firing again. Rating: 5/10

SAM RAPIRA (6 games, 0 tries)

Another crucial injury blow for the Warriors. The elder Rapira showed his class in 2011, and in bite sizes this season, but a triceps injury meant his year was over before it started. His loss has been telling. Rating: Not enough games.

STEVE RAPIRA (7 games, 0 tries)

Another Rapira, more injury woes. Such has been the case for Steve since rejoining the Warriors from the Cowboys. Defensively a machine, with some eye-catching hits, but maybe not enough to suggest he'll be a long-term fixture. Rating: Not enough games.

JEROME ROPATI (8 games, 2 tries)

Does Ropati take the title of unluckiest Warrior ever? Surely. After losing a whole season, with only a couple of games last year, history repeated itself, with a dislocated knee in 2012. Again, another senior player whose strength, temperament and leadership were missed. Rating: Not enough games.

OMAR SLAIMANKHEL (5 games, 0 tries)

Perhaps one of the best back stories in rugby league history, the Pakistan-born Afghan refugee has been a star at Toyota Cup level for the Warriors. Out of his depth when handed an NRL start - and will now head to Japanese rugby. Rating: Not enough games.

UKUMA TA'AI (12 games, 1 try)

A powerful utility player, Ta'ai's biggest problem has always been his discipline. Such was the case again in 2012, with some head- shaking errors from the second rower. Heads to Huddersfield to continue his career and probably won't be missed. Rating: 5.5/10

ELIJAH TAYLOR (23 games, 2 tries)

Stepped up to the plate again this year. A relentless tackler with a composed outlook, Taylor is a man the Warriors can, and should, build around, along with the likes of Shaun Johnson and Ben Matulino. With Luck leaving, Taylor emerges as his clear successor at lock. Will be a club mainstay, on and off the field, for years to come. Rating: 7/10

CARLOS TUIMAVAVE (5 games, 1 try)

Only a handful of games so far, and, despite Colin Best handing him a rough introduction to NRL footy in round 22, hasn't looked out of place. Has played off the bench and at fullback for the Warriors, though his future probably lies in the centres. One for the future. Rating: Not enough games.

BILL TUPOU (24 games, 7 tries)

Tupou has continued the reputation he has always had at the Warriors with another season largely flying under the radar. Has shown some skills, most notably in his mid-season double against the Storm, but all too often has been nothing more than the man at the end of the line for the team. Needs to be encouraged to look for more work and to start adding some spice to his job. Rating: 6/10

MANU VATUVEI (20 games, 12 tries)

Poor old Big Manu. The giant winger has tried his heart out this year. Some notably poor performances, such as his showing against the Broncos, but bounced back from them with vigour. May be destined for a role in the forward pack next year. Scored his 100th try for the club, a milestone in their worst performance of the year, a 52-12 drubbing by the Cowboys. Rating: 6/10

- Sunday News

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