11 Sep 2018

Warriors season review 2018

3:03 pm on 11 September 2018
Simon Mannering as committed as ever in his 300th game for the Warriors.

Simon Mannering as committed as ever in his 300th game for the Warriors. Photo: Photosport

Opinion - So who picked that from the Warriors in 2018? Certainly not me, even though I wrote a pretty ambiguous season preview, the word 'playoffs' certainly wasn't mentioned. However, I wasn't by any means alone - it had been seven long years since the Warriors played some football deep into September.

There were a few off field dramas to contend with too. The summer had seen a tug-of-war over the services of Etene Nanai-Seturo with NZ Rugby, and then a massive rumour about Roger Tuivasa-Sheck doing a code-switch of his own.

Chuck in Simon Mannering's injury that made him miss the first few rounds, and a situation that was all but going to see the club's ownership move offshore. All ingredients for another disappointing season, right?

Wrong. Well, at least not for the start of the season anyway.

After seven rounds the team had somehow got off to its best start ever, including a statement win over fellow high-flyers St George-Illawarra and a golden point thriller against Canberra. This was it, long-suffering Warriors fans thought. This was the year that they'd finally do it - a maiden Premiership 23 years in the making.

Then came Anzac Day. If you were going to encapsulate the most violent aspects of the term "reality check", it's hard to get a better example than the events of 25 April in Melbourne. The Storm dismembered the Warriors 50-10 that night, and it's probably fair to say that any thoughts of a grand final win from then on were tempered heavily by that result.

It didn't help that from then on the Warriors had the consistency of a watered down pancake mix. Good away wins over Wests, Parramatta and Manly were interspersed with losses to the Sydney Roosters, Souths and Cronulla.

But it was the loss to the lowly Gold Coast that could probably go down as the sign that while the year was promising at times, it was not going to deliver any silverware.

Ultimately, the Warriors did make an appearance in the playoffs. However, it wasn't too much of a surprise to anyone that it only lasted 80 minutes against Penrith. The irony of having former Warrior James Maloney twist the knife with an assured display, despite eating one of the hits of the year by Issac Luke, wasn't lost on many either.

So how does 2018 stack up? If you'd told someone before the season that you guaranteed the team would make the playoffs, it would've been taken gladly. But after that fast start and some brilliant performances in the back end of the season, there is that nagging feeling that the Warriors have actually come up short.

They should've finished higher than eighth, indeed it could've been as high as fourth had it not been for a shocking loss to Canterbury-Bankstown.

However, Tuivasa-Sheck had an incredible season alongside Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu'a as the back three. They combined to be heralded in some quarters as the best in the competition. Mason Lino stepped up to be a game winning replacement for Shaun Johnson, much to everyone's surprise. Adam Blair and Tohu Harris put in shifts worthy of the reputations they brought with them, and Blake Green finally gave Johnson a halves partner that could make things happen on the other side of the field.

The talk of getting rid of Johnson in the wake of the playoff loss is somewhat ridiculous, though. The Warriors are 4-22 over the last couple of seasons when he's not playing, and their ability to replace him with someone of the same calibre is non-existent.

Once again, we find ourselves looking towards next season for the Warriors to finally break through and win a Premiership. Just like it's been for the last two decades, but at least this time there's some promise shown - so expect the pre-season previews in 2019 to be a bit more optimistic.