NRLW Warriors season preview 2019

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Preparation is key.

The Warriors are living by this message leading into the second season of the NRL Holden Women’s Premiership after learning quickly last year that travel is tough and the opposition is even harder. 

A victory against the Roosters in round one was the highlight of the 2018 season for the Warriors, who were stranded 24 hours earlier with their flight diverted to Brisbane in chaotic scenes prior to their upset win. 

But the hype and build-up couldn’t be backed up by results over the following fortnight, with back-to-back losses resulting in a third-place finish. 

Twelve months later, with more than 50 percent player turnover, the return of a Kiwi Ferns legend and several off-field changes, the Warriors are feeling better equipped to handle the 2019 season. 

The Outlook

What’s new

A fresh approach to the competition with 12 new players arriving for the Warriors, along with an overall improved preparation off the paddock that includes the addition of a full-time strength and conditioning coach and a bigger focus around fitness. 

Most contracted players continue to work during the day before braving the cold Auckland weather for gym and training sessions at night. 

“The biggest thing from our review of last year was having new additions to the coaching staff and a bigger program in place for the women to follow,” Warriors coach Luisa Avaiki told NRL.com. 

“We’re hopeful we’ll see better results on the field with everything that we’ve put in place for this season.”

Add in a slick new playing strip and the stars are aligning for the club to improve on last season’s efforts. 

The Draw

The Warriors will get the chance to host their own NRLW fixture in round two of the competition against after three consecutive weeks of travel to Australia last year.

The opportunity for a home clash will mean less hassle for the side and an opportunity to play in front of their friends and family – an experience they missed out on last year.

They’ll host the Dragons, who have six girls with a Kiwi background in their squad to ensure the clash makes for extra rivalry. 

“You watch the boys travel each week from afar but until you do that back-to-back you don’t realise how draining it is,” Warriors captain Georgia Hale said. 

“The first game it was exciting but we struggled to back it up and a lot of it came down to preparation. We’ve put a lot of things in place to hopefully help fix that this season and the home game definitely helps.”

If the Warriors can ensure victory on home turf in round two, they’ll only need to win at least one more away game to place themselves in grand final contention based on last year’s finish.

They’ll start the competition against the Roosters at AAMI Park in round one.


Warriors captain Georgia Hale.

Warriors captain Georgia Hale.
©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos


The stat that gives you hope

The Warriors were the most disciplined side in 2019 averaging just 5.7 penalties per game, and despite a 22-point loss to the Broncos in round three, they improved on their missed tackle count as the competition went on to average 39 per outing – the best of any side in the competition.

The coach

Luisa Avaiki is back for another year after making history as the first woman to coach in the inaugural competition last season. 

The Warriors have also added Kiwi Ferns coach Justin Morgan as Avaiki’s assistant, giving them further flexibility in the coaching ranks.


Warriors NRLW coach Luisa Avaiki.

Warriors NRLW coach Luisa Avaiki.
©warriors.kiwi


“I really respect Justin as a coach and know what he’s going to offer me for my own growth and the team,” Avaiki said.

“He’s been in the professional space for a long time as a player and coach. We’re very different but we offset each other. He’s very intense and detailed which I like and that will benefit the girls in the long run.”

Player movement/Contract matters

Honey Hireme joins the Warriors in arguably the biggest signing for the second NRLW season across all clubs, although her immediate availability is under a cloud due to a family illness.

The Warriors will give her every opportunity to take her place in the squad with the superstar training away from the team ahead of round one. 

Apart from her signing, the Warriors have signed several fresh faces including Fijian internationals Roela Radiniyavuni and Timaima Ravisa, while ex-rugby union players Jules Newman, Kanyon Paul and Tyler Reid are also on board. 

The game breaker

While the services of Honey Hireme is the obvious choice here, don’t underestimate the ability of Apii Nicholls in the fullback role.

The Kiwi Ferns international finished the 2018 season ranked fifth overall in tackle busts (15) and averaged at least 11 runs for 94 metres per outing. 

She also led the competition leading in kicks defused with 10, shutting down several try-scoring opportunities by the opposition from the boot close to the try line.

The player you should follow on social media

Krystal Rota

The mum-of-two mixes her passion for rugby league with family to offer several updates in her life including some snapshots of NRL players she meets along the way.

The quote

“It’s really fresh and exciting, we’ve got a core group of players who are back and hungry for more. Then to have the other half who have only watched on from afar and now get their chance is going to make it a good mix to make a strong team.” – Warriors captain Georgia Hale. 

Squad

Georgia Hale, Amber Kani, Onjeurlina Leiataua, Hilda Mariu, Apii Nicholls, Tanika-Jazz Noble-Bell, Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala, Krystal Rota, Aieshaleigh Smalley, Crystal Tamarua, Honey Hireme, Billy Jean Ale, Madison Bartlett, Jules Newman, Kanyon Paul, Charntay Poko, Roela Radiniyavuni, Timaima Ravisa, Tasia Seumanufagai, Atawhai Tupaea, Kathleen Wharton Keremete, Tyler Reid.


Warriors fullback Apii Nicholls.

Warriors fullback Apii Nicholls.
©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos


Tarsha Gale’s predicition

Finish: 4th 

Led by captain Georgia Hale in the halves and a strong and experienced forward pack the Warriors should never be underestimated. They have the added advantage of a team full of players that have already played together at the highest level. For this reason, the Warriors will start strong without the usual teething problems of finding team cohesiveness. In the tightness of the competition though, I can’t see them getting past the Australian teams in 2019. 

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