Homecoming to add ‘positive energy’ to Warriors

Homecoming to add ‘positive energy’ to Warriors

Many in the Warriors’ squad will be buoyed by news home games in New Zealand are pretty much guaranteed from July, but Head Coach Nathan Brown says their focus will be on securing their first win of the season against the Tigers on Friday night.

The club can now plan confidently for the first major rugby league game in New Zealand in more than two and a half years following the government’s decision to remove a wide range of Covid-19 related restrictions.

It will be at their true home ground, Mount Smart Stadium, on July 3 against Wests Tigers.

Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George says it’s great news for fans and the club.

“Until now, we were cautiously optimistic families, members, fans and sponsors would at last be able to see the team playing in front of them at Mount Smart,” George says.

“But now we’re confident and hugely excited about the way being cleared for a return to our true home.

“Our first game back against Wests Tigers on July 3 will be one of the biggest and certainly the most emotional in the club’s history. We want to see the place packed to the rafters for what will be an unforgettable occasion.

“As a club we can’t wait for that day. We’re so thrilled fans will have the opportunity at last to see their team at our home.”

Brown says it will be exciting for a number of reasons.

“First of all for the people of New Zealand who have followed the Warriors for a long, long time and secondly there’s a lot of young kids over there … I think for rugby league to thrive anywhere having your home team play at your home place is great for the youth and great for the development of the club,” he says.

Brown says there probably aren’t too many players left at the club who’ve had much of a connection with Mount Smart, with many making their debuts while the team has been based in Australia.

He says it will be exciting for them to have their family there to watch them play a game and it will be exciting for the Aussies connected with the club to enjoy the Mount Smart experience.

Will it stoke a fire in their bellies this weekend?

“I’m sure there’s going to be an element of the crew who are going to be excited about getting to play at home with their families but, in the NRL, I’d be disappointed if we didn’t have fire in our belly … we are 0-2, if we were 2-2 I’d still expect good fire in their belly,” he says.

“From a welfare point of view, from a mindfulness point of view, I think the excitement of being able to go back there and it’s nearly been guaranteed, I think it’s going to bring some positive energy to an element of people in the group.”

Brown says the side has responded well to his call to start games better, reduce lapses in focus and get the basics right after losses in rounds one and two.

“The boys that were involved in some things that didn’t go as they would have liked earlier in the game have rocked into training and worked hard with their coaches and we expect to see an improved showing from this week,” he says.

Injury update

The extent of Ash Taylor’s injury is unclear until scan results come back, but he’s “pretty sore” and did well to manage it during last week’s game.

“We’re not too sure about Ash to be honest,” Brown says.

Shaun Johnson and Viliami Vailea are making good progress but Watene-Zelezniak will need longer to recover from a broken thumb.

“Whether they (Shaun and Viliami) will be fit for next week or not … I’m not too sure how that’s looking but they’re certainly making good progress. We wouldn’t expect those two boys to be out for too much longer,” Brown says.

Tohu Harris is on track to make his return as expected in mid-May after knee surgery.

Matt Lodge has recovered from illness that had him vomiting before the game and at half-time.

“He certainly trained well yesterday and I think he’s looking forward to having a game where he can actually get out there … he likes to be on the field for a long period of time and we’re looking forward to hopefully having him out there for a much longer period,” Brown says.

So, how important is this game?

“Getting that monkey off your back or getting that win up it certainly adds a little bit of confidence and it obviously takes a bit of pressure off everyone,” Brown says.

“It’s an important game for a number of reasons, but no more important than there’s two points up for grabs.”

VODAFONE WARRIORS v WESTS TIGERS

Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Sydney

6pm, Friday, March 25

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