Kemp: Mannering leads by example for Warriors

TONY KEMP
Last updated 05:00 06/07/2014
Simon Mannering
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BORN LEADER: Simon Mannering has been outstanding for the Warriors this year.

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There has been so much improvement in the Warriors side as a whole over the past couple of months but some players who have stood out above the rest.

One of those has to be Simon Mannering. His leadership this season, in a year of discontent, has been outstanding. He has held things together within the playing group and now the team sees themselves in the top eight.

It has been a big year for Mannering - he played his 200th game, and he probably hadn't scored as many tries in a season as he has so far this year. His confidence seems to continue to grow.

Ben Matulino is another who continues to excel and, especially since Cappy took over, he has gone to another level. He has had to go through his own battles too - losing Russell Packer, who was a really good mate, and going through a period where he was performing for the Kiwis and not the Warriors. That has turned around and being shifted to the edge he has been able to play a natural free-flowing game. I think he is going to play a big part for the back end of the year.

Another guy who has been playing well is Jayson Bukuya and the coach has obviously seen enough in him to warrant that continued selection. He just puts his head down and does his job. He will get better as players know him more and get to know his strengths. He has a really nice offload and is just a solid all-round player.

I think Andrew McFadden's selections have been top drawer. The introduction of the younger guys, the likes of Ngani Laumape, reinstating Konrad Hurrell and getting him confident and giving Dave Fusitu'a a crack has been inspired.

Those young guys have been outstanding. They have been coming up against some really good players, yet the guys they are playing against are talking about them, not the other way around.

That's down to Cappy reinstating some confidence in the team. He has given them the confidence to go out there and try things and enjoy their football.

In terms of people who will be important for the rest of the season and must step up, it is really going to be down to the spine - Shaun Johnson, Chad Townsend, Nathan Friend and Sam Tomkins. If you have Tomkins and Johnson firing, then Townsend and Friend are good enough to hold it together but if either Johnson or Tomkins don't fire then Townsend and Friend are just run-of-the-mill players.

As the year goes on you have to be a lot less flamboyant in your play and a lot stricter. Park up your dinner suit and put your overalls on in the back half of the season. If your kicking game, running game, passing game is not on, then the likes of the Slaters and the Cronks will still be doing it well and will ride roughshod over you.

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Johnson can get to that level. I have said it all along that Johnson is the only halfback I've seen who is close to Andrew Johns. He can be the complete package.

Dane Nielsen is an obvious target for someone who needs to up their game. He is not Ngani Laumape. He does an adequate job, but if anyone needs to raise their game it's him.

The Warriors also need to get some cover for their outside backs and in the halves, hooker, fullback. If we do lose someone we might be looking a bit bereft. There is a lack of depth.

It is all on now for the Warriors. No one cares where you are in April - it is where you are at the back end of the season that matters.

- Sunday News

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