NZ Warriors face their toughest test in Perth

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:00 06/07/2013
Thomas Leuluai
Getty Images
STRONG PERFORMANCE: Thomas Leuluai produced his best performance of the season against the Broncos.

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Perth has been anything but a happy hunting ground for the Warriors.

They have played there four times in the past and are yet to pick up a single point from one of the world's most arduous trips for a domestic sporting fixture.

Tomorrow night they play there again, against the on-fire Rabbitohs, in what will be the toughest test they'll face this season.

Their chances weren't helped yesterday as their flight to Perth was delayed by five hours, although at least the players were able to enjoy the luxuries of flying business class for once.

The odds are against the Warriors, but then few would have predicted they'd win many of the games in their current five-match unbeaten streak and certainly the Warriors players will be feeling optimistic about their chances.

When the two sides met in round five they lost a nail-biter 24-22. But that was during a phase of the season where they'd continually capitulate in the last 10 minutes of games.

Warriors coach Matt Elliott won't be looking for his players to do things drastically different to that occasion at Mt Smart Stadium.

"The last time we played Souths I thought our approach was spot on," Elliott said.

"We got it right for large periods of the game, what we did get wrong was how we gave them the ball.

"They scored two length-of-the-field tries from our kicks and that's going to hurt.

"So we have got to be really careful in how we give Souths the ball. We've got to give it to them under our terms, not theirs'."

Keeping Rabbitohs fullback Greg Inglis out of the action as much as possible will be key for the Warriors, but the same goes for centre Bryson Goodwin, who's doing everything right to earn himself a place in the Kiwis squad for the World Cup.

However, the Warriors forwards have been stepping up of late, particularly Simon Mannering and Feleti Mateo. Also notable has been the improvement of five-eighth Thomas Leuluai.

He admits he struggled at the beginning of the season as he adjusted from playing in the Super League for Wigan last year. But he is improving and he's the only player who's been on the field for 80 minutes of every game this season.

"It wasn't hard to improve on how we started and I wasn't playing too well, but I've got my head down and done a lot of work," Leuluai said.

"I've still got a long way to go and keep doing my job for the team."

It has been widely speculated that Leuluai will switch to hooker next season. Nathan Friend is on his way out and Kevin Locke looks set to move from fullback to No 6 to make way for Sam Tomkins.

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Leuluai, though, says he's still in the dark about what position he'll be playing in next season.

"I haven't spoke to Matt and he hasn't said anything to me," he said.

"Obviously with the way things have panned out you could see it happening, but I'm not too bothered about it.

"Obviously at the start of the year I wasn't playing too well in the halves, but in the latter weeks I've felt comfortable there.

"It's the same with hooker. If I was told to play there I'd look forward to it."

Meanwhile, British newspaper The Sun is again reporting that Wigan coach Shaun Wane will be joining the Warriors next year.

The tabloid yesterday stated that Wane will be Matthew Elliott's assistant next year and take over as head coach in 2015, and that Rabbitohs assistant coach Kurt Wrigley is set to replace Wane at Wigan.

Warriors CEO Wayne Scurrah has consistently denied that Wane will be coming to Auckland.

- Fairfax Media

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