New Zealand Warriors 2024 season preview

New Zealand Warriors 2024 season preview

2023 recap

2023 was a dream season for the Warriors as they not only claimed a first finals spot since 2018, but managed to finish in the top 4 as well. New coach Andrew Webster won the Dally M Coach of the Year in his first season in charge, veteran halfback Shaun Johnson had a career renaissance and the team benefited from being back in Auckland full-time after a COVID-disrupted few years.

Four wins in their opening five games looked as though it might just be a good start, and nothing more when the Warriors won only one of their next five, but a seven-game winning run towards the back end of the year saw them cruise into the finals, where they made it all the way to the prelims before a 42-12 defeat to the Broncos ended their campaign.

2023 position: 4th

Key signings

Kurt Capewell (Brisbane Broncos), Chanel Harris-Tavita, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Rugby Union)

Key departures

Josh Curran (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Bayley Sironen (Catalan Dragons), Viliami Vailea (North Queensland Cowboys), Brayden Wiliame (retired)

Players to watch

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is back in the NRL after a couple of years in rugby union, where he lived out his dream of pulling on an All Blacks jumper. The 30-year-old was one of the game’s premier fullbacks before he left for the other code, but he’s unlikely to dislodge Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad from the number one jersey and looks likely to come back into the NRL as a centre. Wherever he plays though, he’s too good not to earn a place in the starting XIII.

Shaun Johnson had his best season in years in 2023, and the challenge for him this time round is to match those standards again. The 33-year-old was one of the Warriors’ shining lights last year, and he’ll need to be again if they’re to kick on from their achievements last season.

Young gun

Ali Leiataua made his debut in 2023 and the 6ft, 16 stone centre will be hoping to kick on again this campaign. He’s been one of the Warriors’ standouts in reserve grade, and any injuries or loss of form should see him given a shot at first grade again at some point in 2024.

Our prediction – 13th

This could be the prediction that really comes back to bite me, but I can’t see the Warriors repeating what they did in 2023 or even coming close to it. Every so often, a team has an outstanding campaign which comes out of the blue and gets the neutrals excited, but it’s rare they back it up again the following season.

I hope I’m wrong as I’ve developed a real soft spot for the Warriors in the past few years, especially as they suffered more than any other club during the COVID years, but I think they’ll fall short of finals this time around.

Darren Notley

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