The New Zealand Warriors have underachieved in the 2017 Telstra NRL Premiership competition, despite having one of the most formidable spines in the league.
They are absolutely loaded to the gills with players of international calibre.
Club number one Roger Tuivassa-Sheck, halfback Shaun Johnson, rake Issac Luke and perhaps most significantly, Kieran Foran at number 6 should make the Warriors the bullies of the league, but the side has won only seven times in 20 matches, leaving them 12th on the ladders.
Considering the $7 million salary cap, having that quartet forming the spine seems like a sure-fire formula for success, but thus far, the four’s performance has not matched their pay cheques.
There is plenty of blame to be shared by the Warriors’ spine. Foran was impressive early, but he fell off noticeably. Issac Luke has not come close to the level of play that had the Warriors luring him from South Sydney Rabbitohs. Johnson has been in and out all season.
No clearer evidence is necessary than a glance at the 34 – 22 loss the Warriors had in Round 19 to the Penrith Panthers, when the Panthers’ young halfback Nathan Cleary carved them up like the Christmas turkey.
One would think that with the roster at the disposal of Warriors’ Coach Stephen Kearney, the Warriors would be in the top four, certainly the top eight at the worst, but when good players leave other clubs, take big offers, and then wind up playing worse, the recipe for disaster is obvious.
Kearney at one point publicly sledged his team, saying, “There were some guys out there trying very hard and there were some guys that weren’t. There were some individuals whose effort was very questionable and in this competition you can’t have that.”
The Warriors’ plunge has confounded rugby experts and amateurs alike, as most tipped the Warriors for good prospects with the group they had assembled following 2016.