A Shallow Dive into the 2022 New Zealand Warriors

Your men’s New Zealand Vodafone® Warriors™ finished the 2022 season in fifteenth and second last place with a 6-18 record and -292 points difference.

Their defence was the worst in the NRL, conceding an even 700 points in 24 games, and the worst in Warriors franchise history. The only team that came close to their 29.2 points conceded per game were the 2004 squad (28.9), who finished dead ass last that year. The Warriors’ attack was marginally better, cracking 400 points for thirteenth best in the NRL, and only the worst franchise performance since 2009. Their Pythagorean expectation was 6.3 wins, so they finished exactly where they should have.

The Warriors have declined to re-enter the NRLW at this time.

The Victory Lap

From the pre-season deep dive:

Like the Bulldogs, the upshot for the Warriors is if this is a terrible season, they might be able to turf Brown and find someone, literally anyone, else… Until the Warriors resolve this, there’s little point in hoping for much…

At least the Warriors can look forward to playing in Auckland again, after two years away. That’s something.

Ha, and they barely even got that. The sims had them pegged for fourteenth/fifteenth but I thought they were definitely in the spoon conversation pre-season and now post-season, that was clearly right.

What happened

Six wins for the 2022 Warriors, including:

  • Tigers (16th) in round 3 and 16
  • Broncos (9th) in round 4 (during their first pumpkin phase)
  • Cowboys (3rd) in round 5
  • Raiders (8th) in round 8
  • Bulldogs (12th) in round 22

This is not a particularly impressive resume. The first half of the season included a surprising number of close wins and losses (lost to Titans by 2, beat Tigers by 4, beat Cowboys by 1, lost to Souths by 2) and a 60 point nuclear annihilation on ANZAC Day to say thanks to the troops. Nathan Brown was sacked on June 11, four days after Michael Maguire, just before round 14. The Warriors were 4-9 with -129 points difference, not on track for finals but doing better than I had expected.

They didn’t get better. In the back half, the Warriors went 2-9 / -163 and copped some absolute beatings from the good teams, including shipping 22 to the Sharks, 34 to the Panthers, 38 to Souths, 44 to the Cowboys, 34 to the Panthers again and capped off with an embarrassing 16 point capitulation and golden point loss to the Titans in the final game of the year.

To recap, that’s two losses to the 6-18 Titans, one of the Warriors’ biggest rivals, for a total margin of three points. Given I can’t even remember what happened in a game that was less than a week ago, it’s not exactly prime Cowboys-Broncos material.

Putting aside the disastrous coaching appointments, the delayed return to New Zealand (which came so late in the season that the team remained based in Brisbane and commuted to Auckland for home games until the end of the year) and the all-NRL dogshit defence, the $10 million question is how good is the underlying squad.

Not only did the Warriors not achieve much on the field, it was far less than we thought this line up would be capable of. We also need to bear in mind that Taylors don’t do a good job of measuring defensive ability, which is where the Warriors really struggled this year. It’s ugly enough as it is.

Unless your name was Marcelo Montoya or Ed Kosi, the outperformance was at best marginal. We see underperformance the board, with some of the biggest names being the worst offenders. Six Warriors of the 29 that played at least five games produced TPRs functionally equivalent to replacement level players, including Kodi Nikorima, Curtis Sironen and Chanel Harris-Tavita.

A bad coach got this team to six wins, an average coach probably would have got them to nine and a good coach might have even gotten them to 11 or 12 wins. There’s still big gaps in this roster but it didn’t have to be this bad.

There’s always next year

If you thought the NRL clubs were seriously going to donate a home game to the Warriors in 2023 for their “sacrifice” through 2020-22 (i.e. being able to sign Australian based players that would never have signed for the Warriors in a million years if they had to be based in New Zealand), you honestly have no business reading this blog. You might need to start elsewhere before you work your way down to this level of cynicism.

Next year’s leader is Andrew Webster, he of Penrith assistant coach “fame” and not the Krispy Kreme millennial, spin spin spin newspaper guy. I have zero insight to offer on Webster’s head coaching credentials, other than if this Warriors administration is signing him, it’s probably not promising. It seems like they probably went after highly sought after wunderkind Cameron Ciraldo, got easily out-manouevred by Phil Gould and the Bulldogs, and then got the Cameron Ciraldo we have at home. He can’t be any worse than Nathan Brown because no one in the NRL is worse than Nathan Brown but it still smacks of a panic signing from a club that lacks strategic, or any kind of, nous.

Shaun Johnson is just about out of time. Chanel Harris-Tavita is taking a gap year to nurse his balls back to health. Reece Walsh is leaving for south-east Queensland’s other other other basket case (not the perpetually bad one, not the new one and not the one that just returned to New Zealand). Matt Lodge is going to get his full salary to play against the Warriors in 2023. Daejarn Asi looks alright and might follow Walsh. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad might give this team a beating heart and Te Maire Martin some skill level. Wayde Egan appears to be their hooker for next season. None of the Kiwis’ starting line up played for this club in 2022.

The rot starts at the top but I don’t even know how to begin addressing that. Good luck.

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