Trial game will show where Warriors are at

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:00 23/02/2014
Nathan Friend
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ
CONTENDER: Nathan Friend is hoping the Warriors can make a statement of intent.

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It may only be a trial game, but this afternoon at Dunedin's indoor stadium there will be plenty revealed about the Warriors' chances of pushing for the NRL title this year.

Today's hitout against the Broncos is the only time all the Warriors' best players will have the chance to play together before the season gets underway in a fortnight against the Parramatta Eels in Sydney.

For Simon Mannering it's his only pre-season appearance, while Sam Tomkins and Shaun Johnson have only played nines so far.

Last year the Warriors beat the Broncos 16-10 in their trial in Dunedin and then went on to have a pretty ordinary season, so there's only so much that can be read into today's game.

But what will be of interest is seeing how new signings Jayson Bukuya, Chad Townsend and Tomkins slot into the side.

Also, for a number of players this will be a trial in the true sense of the word as positions like centre, wing and prop are up for grabs.

At hooker, barring injury, Nathan Friend should expect to find himself in the No 9 jersey for most of the year and the veteran says today will give the players a decent gauge of where they're at.

"It will be good to put a full team out on the paddock against Brisbane, just to see how the off-season has gone," Friend said.

"Here's our chance to try to put it together as a whole. So I'm excited but like most off-seasons, you always look ahead with high hopes."

With so many Warriors stars not returning to training until January because they played in the World Cup, the senior players left behind like Friend have had plenty of time to work with the younger members of the squad.

It was an opportunity for them to get a taste of what it's like to be an NRL player and Friend admitted some of them struggled.

"A lot of them got a rude awakening at the start just with the training content and the amount of training we actually do," Friend said.

"A few of them were pulling up a bit sore, but that comes with the territory.

"Everything from packing their own lunches to preparation, that's all a big thing when you're a professional player.

"Some of them got their head around it all and by the end of the off-season everyone knew what was required and training was very enjoyable."

For a large part of last season it looked unlikely that Friend would still be with the Warriors in 2014. The club told him they wouldn't take up the option for the last year of his contract and he was free to talk to other clubs.

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However, in the end he signed a one-year extension with the Warriors and as well as being a key player for them, he says he also wants to play a part in bringing through the next wave of youngsters at the club.

"I've been here for two years now and for the team as a whole I think we can do a lot better than what we have done," he said.

"I'll have my little inputs where I can to try to improve the team, because we've taken some steps over the last month.

"A lot of the guys have felt they can reach their potential and hopefully they can, my role is to try to help them do that.

"Personally I have little things to work on week to week, but the bigger picture is to bring the young guys through and lead the guys around."

One of those young guys will be Siliva Havili, who has been talked about as the Warriors' hooker for the future.

"I've still got a bit to give in the game, but I'm not going to be here forever and there's got to be someone that I hand the baton over to and there are a few guys that I'm training with in that position.

"All I can do is perform at training and show them how it should be done. I'm sure they're watching and getting an understanding of what's required in that position and will know the part one day."

- Sunday Star Times

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