Happy headache for Warriors coach Elliott

Last updated 11:30 22/01/2014
Matt Elliot

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Don't be surprised if Warriors coach Matt Elliott is a little sleep-deprived as part two of pre-season training gets under way for 2014.

He will have to brush up on his puzzle skills as the trials are less than a month away, and he will have to try to fit 19 pieces into a 17-piece puzzle by March 8, when the Warriors play the Parramatta Eels in Sydney.

This follows one of the biggest signings in the club's 19-year history in Englishman Sam Tomkins, who will compete for a place at fullback, or possibly in the halves.

It's funny how one signing all of a sudden sees the Warriors go into the new season with some depth in the back three as well as in the halves.

The flow-on effect will have an impact not only on the playing 13 on game day, but also on the bench and the Vulcans.

Tomkins is probably the early favourite for fullback, but he will have stern competition from the incumbent, Kevin Locke, as well as the forgotten man in the equation, Glen Fisiiahi.

Two will miss out on the position, so what happens to them? Will Elliott shift one to the wing?

While Manu Vatuvei should hold down one spot, 2013 Warriors rookie of the year Ngani Laumape had a flawless season on the other wing and deserves first crack. Does Elliott stick to this combo?

The centres pick themselves in Dane Nielsen and Konrad Hurrell.

However, injuries or a form slump from either player could see Ngani Laumape move in from the wing, freeing up a spot for Locke or Fisiiahi.

Veteran centre Jerome Ropati will be waiting in reserve grade for his chance.

All this means that there is likely to be a logjam in the halves. Shaun Johnson will play anchor to Thomas Leuluai, Locke, Tomkins or new recruit Chad Townsend, from the Sharks.

Last year, early reports suggested the Warriors were not interested in extending Nathan Friend's contract.

Indications were that Leuluai was being earmarked for a return to his old role as hooker.

The Warriors back-flipped and have kept Friend on for 2014, which will create selection issues for Elliott.

Does Leuluai now start at hooker, with Friend off the bench, to allow a new partner for Johnson in halves?

Does it not seem a waste to have one of the fittest squad members sitting on the bench for most of the game?

If Tomkins is at fullback, does Locke become a viable option at No 6 while Townsend spends more time playing reserve grade, as he did at Cronulla?

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The forward pack should not be affected by any of this except for the makeup of the bench and how much time Friend or Leuluai will spend on the rotation.

The Warriors have had wretched times with injuries over the years and there is never any guarantee that all these guys will be fit.

If anything, it makes the coach's job easier, so it is probable that these scenarios will be a rare occurrence.

It's a dilemma that the Warriors coaching staff and the fans won't mind a bit. 

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