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Warriors need strong start to slay Dragons

Posted: 1pm 18 May 2022

The Warriors will need to start strongly and play consistent footy against St George Illawarra Dragons in their round 11 clash in Sydney this weekend, if they are to win, according to Head Coach Nathan Brown.

“The Dragons, they start their games very aggressively. They’re certainly a side that don’t mind moving the ball a bit – we’ve got to be quite on our guard there,” Brown says.

“They’ve got some players that as individuals can cause you a lot of problems – both the centres, Jack Bird, the halfback Benny Hunt – they’ve got players that individually can really hurt you. We’re certainly going to have to be aware in defence for a consistent period of time and that’s what’s proven a little bit of a challenge for us at the moment.”

The game will be a milestone for Jazz Tevaga, who will become the 27th player to appear in 100 NRL matches for the Warriors.

“It’s a great achievement for Jazz with the pathway he took. He’s a very popular bloke amongst his teammates,” Brown says.

“It’s a big occasion for Jazz and if it’s a big occasion for Jazz, it should be a big occasion for his teammates. We’ll be hoping there’s plenty of blokes heading out there this week to give him a 100th game in style.”

How the side is looking this week

Captain Tohu Harris will play more time this week, but how quickly he works up to a full 80 minutes is not clear at this stage.

Brown said the time he spent on the field last week was the side’s best period, so having him back is good for the team.

Second-rower Euan Aitken is a certainty to play after recovering from a head-knock, while centre Jesse Arthars will be 18th or 19th man.

Brown says standoff Chanel Harris-Tavita trained with the team the other day but is seeing a specialist today, so it is unclear if he will play, as he recovers from a groin injury.

The Warriors will be looking for a vast improvement if they are to challenge the Dragons on Saturday, after a poor start against Souths during last weekend’s Magic Round.

The Warriors rallied in the second half to come within two points of victory and while it was pleasing they showed some grit and determination, Brown wants more from his team.

“We’re disappointed in probably the last three weeks of footy. We felt we were making some decent progress before that,” he says.

“The big key for us is trying to get some consistency across the board and try to get somewhat of two halves of footy together. Whilst we’ve won a few games this year, I still don’t think we’ve probably nailed two good halves of footy. That’s the big challenge for us at the moment.”

Brown says the Warriors can’t become a football team that allows opponents to get big leads, fight back and just get beaten.

“Addressing what the problem was and what caused it is important and also (looking at) why did we get back in the game … could we get that from the start? Starting games well is really important and the good sides, the leading sides, start well and they hang on. That’s the challenge for us – get our start right and come out in the second half and play well again.”

Vital weeks ahead

He agrees the next block of games are important to gain momentum ahead of the Warriors’ homecoming to Mt Smart.

“It gets to that stage, we’re one win out of the (top 8). There’s a fair chunk of sides around that 8 and 10 points and there’s going to be some that get some real consistency and growth in their game and push forward on the ladder and there’s going to be some that you look at in four or five weeks’ time and they’ll be in a similar spot,” he explains.

“The challenge for us is to be one of the sides that pushes forward, so when we do get to go back to New Zealand we going back with momentum or a good position on the ladder. We certainly want to go home and have the fans come to watch a team that’s playing some consistent footy.”

VODAFONE WARRIORS v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS

Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney

Saturday, May 21 at 3pm

Vodafone Warriors’ team list

1 REECE WALSH

2 DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK

3 VILIAMI VAILEA

4 ADAM POMPEY

5 MARCELO MONTOYA

6 DAEJARN ASI

7 SHAUN JOHNSON

8 ADDIN FONUA-BLAKE

9 JAZZ TEVAGA

10 MATT LODGE

11 EUAN AITKEN

12 TOHU HARRIS (c)

13 JACK MURCHIE

Extended bench:

14 AARON PENE

15 BEN MURDOCH-MASILA

16 BUNTY AFOA

17 FREDDY LUSSICK

18 ELIESA KATOA

20 TANIELA OTUKOLO

21 JESSE ARTHARS

22 PRIDE PETTERSON-ROBATI

23 JUNIOR RATUVA

24 RONALD VOLKMAN

25 CHANEL HARRIS-TAVITA

Head Coach | Nathan Brown

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