By Guest Writer Michael Fleming
There is much excitement about the Warriors 2012 NRL Season. This is nothing new to fans of the club given the perceived talent the club has had in past seasons. I believe the difference lies more in the expectation from the fans in 2012. The excellent achievement of making grand finals across the three teams in 2011 – Toyota Cup, Vulcans, and NRL – coupled with back to back Toyota Cup grand final victories has rightfully given fans hope that the Warriors will again push for a place in the big dance come October 2012.
This expectation does however need to be balanced against the changes the club has undertaken in the off season of 2011 / 2012. The Warriors have lost, and it is a large loss, their talismanic coach who took them to the finals seriesevery year since 2007. The loss of Cleary cannot be underestimated. Sure, other teams have lost coaches as well, but Cleary was a key contributor in changing the culture of the club and bringing repeated successful results. Along with the Warriors, the Panthers, Knights, Dragons, Rabbitohs, Bulldogs, and Sea Eagles all have new coaches. The fortunes of each team will change with the new coaches.
Along with Cleary, John Hart has also left. I suspect his leaving would have been brought about by the club letting Cleary go they had a very close working relationship and were building the club together.
On the playing roster the Warriors have signed Nathan Friend from the Gold Coast Titans. He is a very steady hooker who will have a lot of touches during his regular 80 minute stints as well as undertaking a lot of work in defence in the middle of the park. His is the only major signing, and balancing this against the loss of Hohaia, Heremaia, Isaac John, and Brett Seymour, the Warriors have lost a lost of cover in the hookers and halves. Joel Moon’s departure also takes leadership and coverage away. The club has also lost depth through young up and comers such as James Gavet and Sosaia Feki. Gavet is a victim of the club’s depth at prop, as was Jeremy Latimore. In light of all this, I am happy with the clubs roster. Again, the centres will be a headache, however Sione Lousi did cover there admirably for the Vulcans last year, so he could be a dark horse. Fingers crossed we can get a strong season back from Jerome Ropati, however many players say it takes two seasons to return from knee injuries. We never did see the best of Wade McKinnon after his….
The last issue I would like to raise is the early signing of James Maloney to the Roosters. I can understand his desire to want to go back to Sydney, but I just hope the club threw the kitchen sink at him to keep him here. With a likely increase in the salary cap the money available for Maloney should have gone through the roof. After all, it’s only another three years, and the side is Sydney regularly (not to mention the off season). Who knows? I just hope this issue does not destabilise the club.
Good luck to the Warriors in 2012. Their pre season form has been strong and the depth at the club is vast, with exciting youngsters like Glen Fisiiahi, Konrad Hurrell, Sebastine Ikahihifo, and even players like Alehana Mara and Pita Godinet who both had a taste of first grade in 2011. The club itself is running smoothly and long gone are the days of administrational incompetence. With Bluey McClennan’s track record at international and Super League level the team will be guided by a proven coach. I believe they will again challenge for the top four.
Expectation; it’s a funny thing. I hope the Warriors can live up to their own personal expectation in 2012. If they do, the fans will be happy.