Warriors coach faced with No.1 dilemma - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Warriors coach faced with No.1 dilemma

By Steve Jancetic 20/09/2008 02:15:29 PM Comments (0)

It's the sort of pickle New Zealand Warriors coach Ivan Cleary would have dreamed of facing, but nevertheless it's still a pickle.

Who will Cleary put in the No.1 jumper for next week's NRL preliminary final against Manly?

Does he stick with Lance Hohaia, who continued his tremendous finals form with a double in Friday night's 30-13 win over the Sydney Roosters? Or does be go back to Wade McKinnon, the first-choice fullback who is available again after serving a three-match suspension?

"I guess we'll find out," Cleary said after the stirring victory.

"It is a great problem to have.

"Having Wade back is obviously a big boost (while) Lance was outstanding tonight."

Most Warriors fans and even Cleary himself probably thought McKinnon's season was over the second the appeal over his three-game ban for spitting at a touch judge was thrown out.

At that stage the Warriors weren't even assured a finals berth, let alone being 80 minutes away from a grand final.

While McKinnon's return from a long-term injury was one of the catalysts for the Warriors fine end-of-season form, which has now stretched to 11 wins from their past 13 games, Hohaia has given the side an extra dimension in attack while filling in at fullback.

He not only sniffs around the ruck looking to prize his way through the smallest of gaps in the defensive line, he also takes some of the pressure of the halves by stepping in at first and second receiver.

The logical move is for Hohaia to start off the bench with McKinnon in the No.1, but Cleary admitted he had been pleased with Hohaia's contributions from the back.

"(Last night's match) was always going to be a hard game for a fullback, particularly with the sort of firepower in terms of kicking that the Roosters possess, a little bit dewy on the ground as well so I thought he handled it great and was very, very good," Cleary said.

"I guess that is the sort of problems you hope for. One that we have got a game next week and two, it is guys fighting it out to get in the squad."

Hohaia said he would be happy just to be named somewhere in the 17-man squad to face the Sea Eagles, but admitted he would be disappointed to lose the fullback job.

"A little bit, it's something that can't be helped," Hohaia said.

"I can play other positions ... Wade's obviously an out and out fullback and will probably get the job back next weekend. If I go back to the bench I'm pretty happy with that as well.

"I'm happy with the way I went, obviously it's up to the coach now and whatever he decides (as to)what position I play.

"I'm just really excited, hopefully I can be in the team somewhere."

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