'Bit more fire' in NZ Warriors' bellies
Warriors' hooker Nathan Friend says he can feel how much more the players are fired up at training now, compared to this time last year.
When Friend joined up with the Warriors from the Titans a year ago, he was moving to a team still riding high from their grand final appearance.
This time, though, the Warriors will enter the new season on an eight-game losing streak and while there is a desire to move on from this year's disastrous campaign, the hurt the players experienced still lingers.
"There is probably a bit more fire in the belly this year," Friend told Sunday News.
"This year was my first and the team had come off a grand final loss, so the boys were in a bit of a cruise mode. Although we trained really hard last off season, you can feel a few differences here and there this time.
"A lot of the young guys are starting to talk and find a bit of confidence, they're realising that things aren't just going to happen for them, and it didn't happen for them last year by just cruising along. Every effort they're putting in now is their best effort, we're working collectively as a whole here and there are no individuals."
The past two weeks the players have been focusing on training, with new coach Matt Elliott taking a back seat, but that will change next week when Elliott finally gets to do some work with the players.
With so much of the back room staff gone from this year's campaign, the players may feel they need to impress the new coaches.
"For the guys that have been here for many years, it's probably great for them to see some new faces," said Friend.
"A lot of the guys probably don't have too much to prove, they just want to do the best for themselves.
"The young guys will be trying to push the envelope in front of the coach, but at the end of the day we're all trying to achieve the one thing, which is to get to the grand final."
Friend has been putting in the extras at training as he recovers from a shoulder operation in September and while he is supremely fit, he won't be able to get fully involved in training with the other players until next year.
"I am slowly starting to do as much as I can with the guys," Friend said.
"It is feeling good. I am here every morning a couple of hours before the other boys doing rehab.
"It's feeling stronger and it's only been the last two weeks that I've started to do some strength stuff on it and we've very happy with where we're at.
"I will do some contact in February and that's five months post-op.
"I have done all I can in the weights room to get it as strong as possible and I think that my body is pretty good at healing, I have had many operations and I've come back with no worries."