NZ Warriors need to play follow the leader

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 26/03/2013
Warriors
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HARD TIMES: Heads bowed, exhausted, humiliated, and it’s only game three. The Warriors eaten alive by the Sharks on Sunday.

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It's your ship, Captain Mannering, and it's going down.

Where Captain Mainwaring and his mates from the Walmington-on-Sea home guard were a hoot, Simon Mannering's Warriors are fast becoming a joke.

Having seen off head coach Brian McClennan and interim boss Tony Iro, the Warriors have now begun Matthew Elliott's tenure with three losses, two of which were shockers.

Coaches are easier to sack, but at some point players deserve scrutiny too and the skipper more than most.

The Warriors have now lost 11 matches on the trot, dating back to July last year, and are in for a hard ride from the North Queensland Cowboys when they meet at Mt Smart Stadium on Monday.

Speaking before Sunday's 28-4 loss to Cronulla, Mannering said the run of results were not ideal but certainly no fault of Elliott or the new recruits.

"I don't think it's anything to do with this group. A lot of guys in the squad this year weren't part of that so I think it's silly to hold that against them," Mannering said of the 11-game slide.

"You want to win every week and that's what you do. You try and put yourself in a position each week, through your training and preparation, to perform to win. Unfortunately we missed out the first two weeks, but there's no easy game and I don't think you can have too much emphasis on the end result as such.

"Obviously you want to win each game, but you've just got to worry about what you can control and hopefully you put yourself in a position to get the two points each week."

Things aren't panning out that way for now, meaning someone has to lead a resurgence and it might as well be Mannering.

The Nelson backrower, who played a lot of his pre-Warriors football in Wellington colours, has a definite view of what a good captain is.

"He's someone that's going to give the team good direction on and off the field," he said.

"Obviously you've got to try and keep on top of things as best you can, whether it's how we're training, what we're doing around training and then obviously in the different game situations.

"If you have a good group of senior players around you within the team it definitely helps."

Again, you can debate how successfully Mannering's method is going right now.

Elliott was actually slow to endorse him as skipper when he first arrived at the club and Mannering was only reappointed after what basically amounted to an open audition.

Having secured the Warriors' arm band, Mannering then supplanted Benji Marshall as Kiwis captain.

That came as something of a surprise, but Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney clearly preferred Mannering's undemonstrative manner to Marshall's heart on the sleeve.

Mannering hasn't spoken to Marshall since the change and is in no hurry to.

"I know he was very proud to have the role and took huge honour in leading the country and I knew he'd be hurting when he lost it. But knowing Benji, I know he'll just want to do what's best for the Kiwis and it's a decision Stephen made and it won't change too much.

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"He's still one of the longest-serving guys in the squad and he'll still have a big impact on how the team performs."

The Kiwis don't play till April 19's Anzac test in Canberra.

By then the Warriors' season might effectively be over, unless Mannering can quickly marshal his men.

- The Dominion Post

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