Hurrell edges closer to first game of season

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:00 19/03/2014
Fairfax NZ

Matthew Elliott talks about the Warriors performance on the weekend.

Konrad Hurrell
ROB JEFFRIES/ Getty
CULT HERO: Konrad Hurrell.

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Crowd favourite Konrad Hurrell is edging closer to playing his first game for the Warriors this season. He has been named on an extended bench for Saturday night's game against the Cowboys in Townsville.

Feleti Mateo, something of a disappointment this season, has been named at lock, with John Palavi dropping to the interchange bench.

Sione Lousi, who was on bereavement leave last week, comes in for the injured Ben Henry on the bench in the only other change from the side that lost 31-12 to the Dragons at Eden Park on Saturday night.

Hurrell found himself out of favour at the start of the season, with his fitness being an issue, but Elliott said yesterday the blockbusting centre had earned a seat on the flight to Townsville by playing well in the reserve grade team's 12-12 draw against Illawarra last weekend.

"I thought he was by far the best player on the field on the weekend," Elliott said.

"He also showed a lot of energy in his defence and he carried the ball 20-something times as well.

"Konrad has worked really hard on his fitness, which was probably the question mark that put him behind some people.

"We know what he can do for us, he gives us penetration."

Elliott does like to play with four forwards on the interchange, so it's possible Hurrell will still miss out, but he is clearly back in contention for a place in the first-grade team again.

Five-eighth Thomas Leuluai took a full part in the team's training session at Mt Smart training yesterday, but it won't be until next weekend's game against Wests Tigers in Wellington that he'll be given a run as he slowly recovers from the groin injury picked up at last year's World Cup.

With the Warriors convincingly beaten in both of their games this season, against the Eels and Dragons, it's no surprise that they are rank outsiders to beat the Cowboys.

There are talented players in this Warriors side, but some have been well short of performing at their best this year, with one of the issues being their struggles in dealing with a faster style of play this season due to rule changes.

"We've made it an issue, it hasn't been an issue for what we've practised to do, but it's making that stuff happen on the field," Elliott said.

"There are some structural things that can happen there, but there's got to be a mindset that we're going to win that part of the field and it is now the key thing in the game.

"I saw the Gold Coast [v Tigers] game at the weekend and I saw that game last night (Bulldogs v Sharks), if you want to win the ruck you'll have the opportunity to do it, the refs are giving you that." With the poor start, Elliott's position at the club has come into question again. Nothing will happen for a while yet, but the longer the club go without a win, the louder the call to make a coaching change will get.

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Elliott admits there is pressure on him, but he says he's able to handle it.

"It's what you sign up for," he said. "I've been doing this for a while and I can tell you, I'm sick of not winning.

"I look forward to coming up with a performance that deserves a victory, for sure."

NZ WARRIORS: Sam Tomkins, Glen Fisiiahi, Dane Nielsen, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei, Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino, Jayson Bukuya, Simon Mannering (c), John Palavi. Interchange (from): Jacob Lillyman, Suaia Matagi, Sione Lousi, Feleti Mateo, Konrad Hurrell.

- Fairfax Media

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