Warriors desperate for a win in final trial
When is a pre-season trial more than a pre-season trial? When you've lost 10 games in a row.
It could be a bit of a stretch to call tonight's game against the Brisbane Broncos in Dunedin a "must-win" fixture, but the reality is that the Warriors are desperate for a victory.
Losing eight consecutive games at the end of last season was demoralising enough, but that was supposed to be all forgotten when Matt Elliott came in as coach.
However, the Warriors have lost both of their two previous trial games this year, to Gold Coast and Penrith, and with this being their final pre-season game the last item on the team's wishlist would be to go into their season-opener against Parramatta on March 9 on the back of 11 straight losses.
While the players have bought into Elliott's philosophy for how he wants the team to play, there needs to be evidence that they're all going down the correct route. This will only come with a victory.
"With any game, whether it's a trial or not, you want to perform well and hopefully get the win," said Warriors captain Simon Mannering.
"We are definitely treating this game as a very important one for us and a good way to go into the season is with a win under our belt against a quality side."
The 32-18 loss to Penrith in Hamilton last weekend highlighted areas the Warriors need to focus on before the season proper gets underway.
"Definitely the defence was fairly poor, as it was in the first trial and we need to get that right," said Mannering.
"Defending well is a big part of anyone's game and if you're not doing that well then it makes it very hard to get the win."
Making their first appearances of the year tonight will be Sam Rapira, Jerome Ropati (playing his first game in 10 months) and new recruit Todd Lowrie, so they should provide an edge that wasn't there in the last two games.
The relationship between a coach and captain is one of the most important in sport, there needs to be a common understanding and frankness and Mannering says he's enjoying working with Elliott.
"It is going good so far," he said.
"It's a new relationship and Matt is an easy guy to get along with and he's open to ideas.
"It is important for us both to give each other feedback on certain things and so far so good.
"Any coach should be in a position to take feedback from the team. Matty just wants the best for the side as we do as players.
"You need a good relationship between the coach and the players to get the best out of the team performance wise."
Pundits on both sides of the Tasman aren't picking this to be a successful year for the Warriors.
The Australian TAB has them at $34 outsiders, with only Gold Coast and Penrith less fancied, while with the New Zealand TAB they are an ungenerous $17.
However, Mannering says the Warriors will go into the season believing they can win the NRL Grand Final.
"Every team's expectations will be exactly the same and that's to go out and win it," he said.
"It doesn't matter what the TAB odds are, that's nothing to do with it.
"If you're not doing your pre-season with the aim of winning it, then there is no point doing all of that hard work."
But Mannering says while the target is to win the Grand Final, they don't know how realistic that is yet.
"So far it has only been training and a couple of trial games, you won't know how good you're going until you get into the season," he said.
"You don't want to pump up your own tires too early, it's a matter of making sure you know you're doing everything you can to get the performance out of yourself individually and then collectively as a group.
"Speaking for myself, I feel like I've done enough in the off season and I'm sure other players will be saying the same thing.
'We won't really know how we're going until the season kicks off, but it's a matter of making sure no stone is left unturned and that we're prepared as well as we can be to get the right result each week."
Warriors: Kevin Locke, Bill Tupou, Dane Nielsen, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Elijah Taylor, Ben Matulino, Feleti Mateo, Simon Mannering (C), Todd Lowrie. Interchange: Glen Fisiiahi, Charlie Gubb, Sam Rapira, Carlos Tuimavave, Alehana Mara, Jerome Ropati, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Steve Rapira.
Broncos: Josh Hoffman, Delroy Berryman, Justin Hodges, Jordan Kahu, Lachlan Maranta, Corey Norman, Peter Wallace, Ben Hannant, Andrew McCullough, Josh McGuire, Alex Glenn, Matt Gillett, Corey Parker. Interchange: Scott Prince, Sam Thaiday, Ben Hunt, David Stagg, Mitchell Dodds, Scott Anderson, Jack Reed, Joe Bond.