It’s hard to be too critical of the poor Warriors, who once again had to play virtually the entire season away from home.
The club was never in finals contention as a result and, as Warriors fans have come to expect, played patches of good football but were unable to match it with the Aussie clubs for 80 minutes.
Defence and attitude were clear problems – the Kiwi lads lost six games by a margin of 30 points or more – the most times in their history.
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Coach Nathan Brown parted company with the club mid-season but Warriors great Stacey Jones could do little to stop the rot.
Halfback Shaun Johnson made a much-hyped return to the club after a stint at Cronulla but is now in the twilight of his career and wasn’t able to spark any sort of serious finals challenge.
One highlight was the emotional return to New Zealand late in the season, with the Warriors coming up with a win over the Tigers before a full house of grateful fans at Mount Smart Stadium.
The final game of the season summed up the Warriors – they led the Titans 26-12 with five minutes to play yet somehow lost in extra time.
On a positive note, the club has bought well for next season and will have a squad capable of challenging for a top eight spot.
NRL Highlights: Warriors v Titans – Round 25
Best player: Addin Fonua-Blake relished in a leadership goal at the Warriors, playing 20 games and showing his younger pack members the way forward. Probably his best season in the NRL with a new-found consistency.
Biggest disappointment: Reece Walsh emerged onto the NRL scene like a volcano in 2021 but a cocaine possession charge over the summer was a bad omen leading into the new season. He played 21 games but scored just two tries and struggled in the last line of defence. A move to Brisbane next season might kick-start his career because there is no doubting the kid’s ability.
Key signing: Dylan Walker had arguably his best season in the NRL in a terrible Manly team, filling in all over the field and showing playmaking skills. His toughness and professionalism will boost the Warriors.
Gains: Marata Niukore (Parramatta), Luke Metcalf (Cronulla), Dylan Walker (Manly), Mitchell Barnett (Newcastle), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (Canberra), Te Maire Martin (Brisbane).
Losses: Euan Aitken (Dolphins), Reece Walsh (Brisbane), Eliesa Katoa (Melbourne).
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