Vodafone Warriors second hottest attacking team
Monday 9 July 2012 4:14 PM
Three wins in the last four weeks have not only catapulted the Vodafone Warriors into the NRL’s top eight for now but have also enabled them to become the second most prolific points-scoring side in the competition.
With a total of 20 tries and 116 points across the four games – six of them to boom centre Konrad Hurrell – the Vodafone Warriors’ points for tally has climbed rapidly to 388 leaving them just behind Melbourne on 400.
In each of the three wins the Vodafone Warriors have scored 30 or more points, underlining head coach Brian McClennan’s often-heard comment: “We’ve got a lot of points in us.”
While the team’s points-scoring ability has been reinforced the run of success has been complemented an improved defensive effort in the same period with only 68 points – an average of 17 a game – being conceded.
It has resulted in the Vodafone Warriors being able to transform their points for and against margin from a negative position to a point where it now reads plus 32, the seventh best in the competition.
With eight games to play in the regular season, the Vodafone Warriors take an 8-8 win-loss record into Friday night’s game against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.
During the past month there has been a constant refrain from some experts and fans that the Vodafone Warriors’ opponents have been at a distinct disadvantage fielding sides heavily affected by State of Origin demands.
They noted Penrith was without Luke Lewis, Michael Jennings and Tim Grant ahead of Origin II while Cronulla was missing injured captain Paul Gallen following Origin II; North Queensland was without Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Brent Tate and James Tamou ahead of Origin III and last weekend Gold Coast lost Greg Bird and Nate Myles with injuries after the decider in Brisbane.
Such an argument conveniently overlooked the other side of the ledger which showed the Vodafone Warriors had to play an in-form Melbourne twice in the space of five weeks pre-Origin with stars Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith all fizzing.
The theory also ignored the injury-enforced unavailability of vastly experienced Vodafone Warriors players. Against Penrith there was no Jerome Ropati, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend or Micheal Luck; against Cronulla Luck was back after nine months out but Manu Vatuvei had joined Friend, Ropati and Rapira in the casualty ward; against North Queensland Friend returned yet Ropati, Rapira and Vatuvei were still out; and against Gold Coast Luck had joined the latter three.
In every one of the past four matches the Vodafone Warriors have been without at least 400-plus games in NRL experience and as much as 630-plus.
The absence of both Vatuvei and Ropati has resulted in the club fielding the least-experienced backline in the competition in the last three matches.
Only James Maloney and Kevin Locke have played more than 50 matches in a combination with an average age of 21.71 and an average of only 33 NRL games a player. Maloney has been the father figure at the ripe old age of 26, Locke a comparative senior player at 23, three others only 20, one 21 and Bill Tupou just turned 22 last week.
If the Vodafone Warriors' rivals have been doing it tough, it has been far from easy for McClennan and his troops either. It's never any different in the NRL.