22 Sep 2023

Warriors tantalizingly close to elusive grand final

11:32 am on 22 September 2023
Warriors player celebrate with Shaun Johnson after he kicked the winning field goal against the Canberra Raiders at Mt Smart Stadium.

The Warriors will meet the Broncos for the 48th time on Saturday more than 28 years after kicking off their rivalry in the Warriors' debut appearance in the opening match of the 1995 season. Photo: Photosport

The Warriors are one win away from their first NRL grand final appearance in 12 years.

They'll need to beat the odds - and the Broncos - on Saturday night in Brisbane to move a step closer to the trophy.

Form and the bookies have the preliminary final showdown in the Broncos' favour but the Warriors are keeping the faith.

Warriors' wins in Brisbane are rare.

The Auckland-based club has played 21 times at Suncorp Stadium - winning a total of six times - including just once in their four previous visits.

Earlier this week Warriors coach Andrew Webster called on New Zealanders in Queensland to snap up tickets to the game.

"I reckon there'll be 80 percent Kiwis 20 percent Broncos fans, I'm joking Queenslanders, it's a big stadium so hopefully ticketing works out that we get lots of Kiwis there and they have lots of Broncos fans because they deserve it too," Webster said.

The Warriors and Broncos have met once before in a qualifying final in 2011, when the Warriors were on the wrong end of a 30-point thrashing.

However, the clubs have two wins each in their last four match-ups.

Saturday will be a battle of the fullbacks between the Warrior's Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and former Warrior turned Bronco Reece Walsh.

"He challenges them at the ruck, when they're tired Charnze is just getting going and he loves those moments he'll attack you A, B and C in around the ruck there and make your life a misery if you're fatigued," Webster said.

"Reece can hurt you from anywhere on the field but you give him less opportunities to get up the field I think that's the biggest part of the plan instead of coming up with something crazy or different to try and do to him this week we'll stick to what we do well."

Warriors back Dylan Walker is effusive about the Broncos side which finished the season in second place.

"They have x-factor players all around the park the back five are really good their front rowers are top shelf for us to go there this week we have to be on song physically and mentally."

A 2014 Premiership winner with the Rabbitohs, Walker is careful about what he shares with his less experienced team mates during the lead-up to the must-win game.

"You can create pressure in your own environment for unnecessary reasons, you do want to give them tips and say how a game will hold up but we've been doing it all year being consistent about what we're doing with our actions and if we can keep doing that and just lift the intensity as a whole group it just makes it easier for the whole game and everyone knows their role in this team and what I do like about it there's no egos and everyone is happy to play their part."

The Warriors' bounce back from their worst season on record to one of their best this year has had a wide-ranging impact.

Like many others, Black Ferns players Patricia Maliepo and Layla Sae are on board the Warriors bandwagon and say they can learn a lot from the way the NRL club has turned their fortunes.

"I think it's pretty cool that their past seasons have been a bit of a rollercoaster but they've just stunned everyone with their performance this year and how far they've come New Zealand is backing them all the way."

The other grand finalist will be found on Friday night when the defending champion Penrith Panthers face the Melbourne Storm in Sydney.