Sir 'Lance-lot' the Warriors' saviour

BY MICHAEL DONALDSON
Last updated 05:00 14/06/2009

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Sometimes the answer to your problems is there all along.

The Warriors signed Joel Moon because they wanted a standoff who would challenge the line; something they were not getting from Michael Witt and others last season. But Moon has not been everything they had hoped for and has also been required to cover at centre, where he played for his former club Brisbane, following the injury to Brent Tate.

In his absence Nathan Fien, a natural halfback, had a couple of goes at standoff this season but that was an unmitigated disaster. So when Moon was injured for Friday night's clash against Newcastle at Mt Smart, and with Fien surplus to requirements, the spinning bottle last week pointed at Lance Hohaia.

Mr Versatility, who was so outstanding last year when filling in at fullback for the injured Wade McKinnon and who has been used to plug all sorts of holes off the bench, from hooker to centre to fullback, has now come full circle; slotting back into the position he first played when he started at the club in 2002.

But to paraphrase the so-called millionth word of the English language, Hohaia version 2.0, is a far cry from the player who first donned the No6 jersey outside Stacey Jones seven years ago.

His time spent covering for McKinnon last year, plus his role in the world cup-winning Kiwis, have taken his confidence to a higher level and his game now has a robust maturity to it.

The fact that he scored the Warriors' opening try in a 13-0 win by running hard at the defensive line and carrying four defenders with him augurs well for the future, should the Warriors choose to keep Hohaia at standoff.

"I thought he competed really hard and he was certainly very busy," coach Ivan Cleary said of his small but feisty No6. "It is hard when you put someone in a new position. There's always a risk and you're not going to see the perfect game in terms of execution but I thought Lance competed really hard and probably summed up the way the team performed."

For his part, Hohaia was happy just to be touching the ball a lot.

"I've played a lot of positions over the last few years and I enjoy just about all of them. I enjoyed being out there for the whole 80 minutes; that was probably the main difference."

The Warriors have now won two games in a row at home by keeping the opposition scoreless and teams who travel to Mt Smart when there's a bit of rain around now know they have to bring their A-plus game in order to break a bruising Warriors defence which thrives in tough conditions.

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However, the attack continues to be an area of concern, Kevin Locke's runaway try on the final whistle enhancing the margin in an otherwise tight contest.

Cleary said: "Stacey [Jones] got hurt tonight and that didn't help and I guess, maybe, we have been relying a bit too much on a few guys. The rest is just about confidence and that will come. It certainly makes it a lot easier if you can defend well. As far as our attack goes, I'm sure that will improve."

The Warriors have a bye next week, plenty of time for Jones to recover from his groin strain, before they tackle the Titans on the Gold Coast on Saturday, June 27, followed by a Friday night assignment in Brisbane.

"We'll know a bit more about ourselves by then," said Cleary.

Meanwhile, the Warriors have released halfback Liam Foran without him playing a senior game for the club. Foran has gone to Sydney Roosters' feeder club Newtown Jets. Frontrower Leeson Ah Mau, another unwanted for 2010, is expected to lock in a deal to join the Newcastle Knights for next year.

- Sunday Star Times

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