Friend return could give Warriors big boost

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:00 01/04/2013
Nathan Friend
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax NZ
FRIEND TO RETURN?: Warriors coach Matt Elliott is staying tight lipped about whether hooker Nathan Friend will play against the Cowboys.

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Warriors coach Matt Elliott is staying tight lipped about whether hooker Nathan Friend will play against the Cowboys tonight, but it’s certainly the type of boost the team could do with.

There is little left to say about the awful 11-game losing streak the Warriors are on.

All of the soul searching it’s possible to do has been done and Elliott has gone over everything again and again with the players, trying to drum into them that they need to stick to the game plan.

It’s all stuff that needs to be done when a team hasn’t won in nearly nine months, but what can make a big difference is the introduction of something extra special and that’s where Friend comes in.

He is a hugely respected figure at the Warriors and while Elijah Taylor has been an adequate replacement as the Australian overcame a shoulder operation, he hasn’t been able to lead the team round like Friend can.

Elliott wasn't prepared to say whether Friend would play but did confirm that he came through the team’s final training run yesterday.

“He got through the majority of today’s session and he’s done some contact, which was his first real, massive contact, but we’ll see how he is,” Elliott said.

It was reported in Australia yesterday that former Tigers coach Tim Sheens could be in charge at the Warriors in two weeks’ time if things don’t start to improve at the Warriors.

But so deep rooted were the problems at the Warriors that it was hard to see how anyone could turn them into a winning team at the beginning of this campaign.

The 28-4 loss to the Sharks last weekend was arguably worse than their 40-10 defeat against the Eels in their season opener.

Not surprisingly, a dark cloud hangs over the players, so Elliott has been trying to get them to play with some confidence again.

“The way to solve some of the issues we’ve created around ourselves is to play with some real belief and enthusiasm,” he said.

“We have certainly looked at the technical side of things and we’ve explored that, but we need to play buzzed up, that’s my technical term for today.

“We need to get excited about being back at Mt Smart and playing the type of footy that we’re capable of.”

It is the club’s first game this season at Mt Smart, having taken their previous home game, against the Roosters, to Eden Park.

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Elliott doesn’t believe it will make a big difference to play inside the Penrose volcano, but with the way things are, he’ll take anything to help give the players an edge.

“That will be a bit of an excuse, but when you find yourself in a situation like we are, when we’re 0 and 3 you want to grab onto things that you’re excited about and that’s certainly one thing,” he said.

So far this NRL season it’s all been fairly predictable, the favourites are nearly always winning and teams up at halftime are hardly ever losing.

That’s something which isn’t good for the Warriors as they haven’t scored a first half point yet this season.

So ending that drought and having a good start is clearly something the Warriors need to do against the Johnathan Thurston inspired Cowboys.

It’s something Elliott has gone over with the players all season and it’s no different for tonight.

“We have already done that, we’ve done it since the very start of things, so we just address the fundamental things of how we play.

“They’ve got all of that covered, all they need to do is execute it without any hesitation, that they fly in and enjoy themselves.”

- Stuff

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