14 May 2019

Warriors: Blair not guaranteed to play against Panthers

3:17 pm on 14 May 2019

Adam Blair has been put on notice by Warriors coach Stephen Kearney, told to lift his form if he wants to get back in the NRL side.

Adam Blair

Adam Blair Photo: Photosport

Suspension ruled Blair out of the Warriors come from behind win over St George Illawarra at the weekend, which was their first victory in five games.

In his absence the Warriors pack stepped up, showing grit and resolve to fight back from 18-6 down at half-time to win the match.

The Warriors play Penrith in Sydney on Friday night and Kearney says there's no guarantee Blair will make the line-up.

"I'm not to sure yet. The guys who were in the 17 last week did a pretty good job. There might be some differing opinions among the coaching group. We'll have to wait and see."

Meanwhile Kearney is all too familiar with the crushing pressure faced by the Panthers, describing Friday's match as akin to walking into a hornets nest.

Penrith's season is on life support after a 30-4 mauling from the Wests Tigers left one of the pre-season competition favourites languishing in equal-last place and staring at potentially a sixth-straight loss when the improving Warriors visit.

Kearney has sampled the strain of disastrous seasons, firstly in a harrowing head coaching stint at Parramatta followed by some lean periods with the Warriors.

He believes a fortress mentality will envelope Ivan Cleary's team and has called on his players to absorb early intensity and then unveil the composure that carried them to a fighting 26-18 win over the Dragons. That result broke their own four-match losing streak.

"It's the challenge for us, we're walking into a bit of a hornets nest this week," Kearney said.

"We have an expectation of what we're going to be confronted with but our focus is on what we need to do.

"I've had enough to worry about here, than worry about some other footy club and their woes."

Kodi Nikorima's solid debut in the halves played a part in the Warriors' improved finish in Brisbane.

Their unanswered 20 points in the second half compared favourably with the late meltdowns of previous weeks and Kearney is hopeful of a repeat.

He expects Nikorima and Blake Green to gel tighter with every outing and concedes that will be critical to the Warriors' finals hopes.

"I think Kodi will improve. I think he challenges the defensive line when he carries the footy," Kearney said.

"What I was most pleased about at the weekend, I thought he defended pretty good."

Nikorima and Green will square up with Nathan Cleary and James Maloney, who have shown only scraps of form all season for Penrith and are under mounting pressure to keep their NSW State of Origin spots.

The Warriors should go close to fielding the same team, with the main injury doubts surround Jazz Tevaga (foot) and Nathaniel Roache (back).

Roache will be given until game day to prove his fitness, with Karl Lawton potentially on standby to replace him as the starting hooker.

That would be another blow for the out-of-form Issac Luke, who was demoted to reserve grade last week.