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Warriors preparing for Panthers at Moreton Daily Stadium

Posted: 4pm 15 Jun 2022

Warriors players have talked through their form slump with a leadership coach this week as interim Head Coach Stacey Jones looks to rid the side of fundamental errors, while nurturing a spirit of positivity.

It comes as the side prepares for their clash against competition leaders Penrith Panthers at Moreton Daily Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 5.30pm) and 19-year-old Ronald Volkman makes his NRL debut in the halves. Head to the website for tickets.

The highly regarded Volkman, initially signed on a three-year deal from next season, joined the Vodafone Warriors early last month and will become the seventh player to make his club debut this year.

After coming through the Roosters’ age group sides and the North Sydney Bears in the New South Wales Cup, he’s had two outings with the Vodafone Warriors’ feeder club the Redcliffe Dolphins in the Hostplus Cup during the past fortnight.

The Dolphins beat the Ipswich Jets 54-0 on June 4 and the Mackay Cutters 34-32 last week, Volkman marking his second outing with a try, a line break, line break assist and try assist plus five tackle breaks.

Jones is confident he can step up, with support from his teammates and guidance from halves partner Shaun Johnson against the red-hot Panthers.

“When he first came on board, we needed him to play some footy in the Q Cup with Redcliffe, get a few games under his belt, but he’s electric on his feet, he moves well, plays deep into the line, got a very handy kicking game,” Jones says.

“We just felt we needed to make a change and he’s been playing some really good footy for Redcliffe.

|“It’s exciting that we’re going to be able to give a kid a debut. When I spoke to him, he was just that excited. I think he needs about 100 tickets for his family members to come to the game.|

“Things like that it boosts the other players too, knowing that a kid has been given a debut. We need something in this group right now that’s going to give them some energy, not rely on Ronald to make some miracle plays or something like that, it certainly gives a boost and some positivity around the group.”

Working with Johnson

When asked about Shaun Johnson’s form, Jones says he’s been struggling with “a couple of things” off the field.

“I’ve spoken to him and a big focus is to get through this week and he can see some light at the end of the tunnel and get home. I really want Shaun to be a part of the first game when we get home but, for him, let’s just focus on this and then he can sort of think about getting home. I had a good chat with Shaun this week and he’ll be right to go,” Jones says.

“He’s got a really good opportunity to help a young kid out (Volkman) and establish himself as a footy player. You shift a bit of other stuff off him, drive him to make a kid start off with a good career.”

Other team changes

Chanel Harris-Tavita, moved out of the halves to make way for Volkman, is on the bench to provide utility cover.

“We know where he’s at with his footy and what his focus is and him being on the bench can take a bit of pressure off him, but he can also add a lot of dynamic to our bench too,” Jones says.

|“He’ll cover Wayde Egan, he’ll cover the halves and he can also cover the outside backs … he played fullback at the start of the year. The balance there was the right thing.”|

First-choice prop Addin Fonua-Blake is a chance to rejoin the side if he pulls up well after a test today and captain’s run. He has been sidelined with a foot injury since the round 11 loss to the St George Illawarra Dragons, and has been named on the extended bench in #23.

If there’s any doubt about his recovery, he won’t play.

There’s a change in the centres with Jesse Arthars coming in for Rocco Berry. Arthars played seven of the first eight games of the season including each of the club’s four wins over the Wests Tigers, Brisbane, North Queensland and Canberra but picked up a shoulder injury in the golden point win against the Raiders.

With Ben Murdoch-Masila (elbow) ruled out for an extended period, prop Bunty Afoa is listed to start his 99th career game although a front row shuffle is likely if Fonua-Blake plays.

Experienced second-rower Euan Aitken (concussion) has been ruled out which results in Josh Curran coming into the starting back row.

Changing team mindset

Jones says the first 20 minutes against Cronulla Sutherland Sharks last Sunday was positive, but then old habits crept in – errors and not defending them or turning them around.

“The errors we’re making are ones, the fundamental ones … you can’t kick the ball out on the full, you can’t play the ball sideways. Those things just shouldn’t happen. I can accept errors, we can accept errors when you’re playing footy, those ones just hurt,” he says.

|“The players’ heads go down, not all of them but a few of them and if a few players’ heads go down it just becomes a vicious cycle."|

So, is this a worry with the team playing the Panthers this weekend, if he doesn’t sort this out?

“Without a doubt. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. If we do that to any team - we’re under no illusion what we’re coming up against this week, a team that’s been in form for a few years now - if we toss a bit of that stuff up, it can be damaging,” he says.

“At the minute we’re really focusing on trying to be positive, trying to get the boys to turn up to training and bounce in and be good. That was my message after the game because everyone’s hurting, everyone’s disappointed with where we’re at.

“If you dwell on things, the negative stuff too much, it can weigh you down. The one good thing about this group, and I said it last week as well, they turned up ready to go and it showed in patches last week – obviously the first 20 minutes and then 15-20 minutes after halftime, they bounced in. You get into a bit of mode there of bad habits that crept into the game and heads dropped.

“There’s a couple of things we’ve done to try to address that when things don’t go our way that we’ve got to be connected. At the minute, I’m trying to keep things as positive as possible.”

What can fans expect from their last ‘home’ game at their Redcliffe “home away from home”?

|“For us, it’s been wonderful to be here. The people have been tremendous support around Redcliffe and the area. For us, we want to put on a good performance that people here can remember us by.|

“We owe it to them. They’ve looked after us. It will be sad that it’s our last game here but we’re also looking forward to getting home. We’ll still be here for the rest of the year training and what not.”

Curran’s ready to play

Back-rower Josh Curran says it was good to get some minutes during the Sharks clash after overcoming a knee injury and concedes it has been tough to watch his teammates struggle in recent weeks.

“It’s been a bit frustrating watching from the sideline but we just kill ourselves with our errors. The first 15-20 minutes into the game, we were in the arm wrestle and we were winning … then they scored and we kick out on the full and the whole momentum just changed,” he says.

“We did review yesterday and pretty much said we’ve done enough talk, let’s put it into action. We’ve got a good challenge against Penrith and if we keep kicking stones, I’m sure they’ll put 50 (points) on us.

“I’m really excited for it. All the boys are excited for this big challenge coming up and if we can go out there … complete and keep it simple, it’s going to be real good for us in the back end of the year.

“We spoke about it this week and we want to change our mentality when we make an error. We’ve got a leadership coach that actually came in yesterday and we had a good chat with him. We spoke about a fair few things and heaps of the boys’ mindsets … I feel like it’s beginning to change and we’ll see how we go on the weekend.

“It’s pretty much an attitude thing. We just talk about the errors and we kind of switch off for the next two sets which kills us. We just talked about how we need to change our attitude, our mindset when we make an error.”

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