Warriors plan to keep up momentum - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Warriors plan to keep up momentum

By Adrian Warren 28/09/2008 02:56:22 PM Comments (0)

Senior members of the New Zealand Warriors don't expect their NRL team's bubble to burst despite losing talisman Ruben Wiki and two other Test forwards.

The departures of Wiki and fellow internationals Logan Swann and Wairangi Koopu following Saturday night's season-ending 32-6 preliminary final loss to Manly, will deprive the club of a massive 667 games of first grade experience.

Coach Ivan Cleary, skipper Steve Price, halfback Nathan Fien and centre Brent Tate remained upbeat despite the convincing defeat and optimistic about the club's future.

Riding a wave of emotion largely generated by Wiki's impending departure, the Warriors produced one of the feel good stories of the 2008 NRL season.

Languishing in the lower half of the ladder halfway through the campaign, Wiki's 300th game prompted a run of 10 wins from 12 matches to charge into the preliminary final, a position equalled by their Toyota Cup side.

Along the way, they defeated Melbourne twice and also vanquished other competition heavyweights Cronulla, Brisbane and the Roosters.

"If you look back to where we were 14 weeks ago, halfway through the year, it's turned into a pretty successful one," said Fien, a contender for New Zealand's No.7 jersey at the World Cup, who relished his mid-season switch back from hooker.

"I think our defence has really come along in leaps and bounds. That's the way the game is now, you've got to be able to turn opposition sides around.

"We're going to have continue that next year and then just be a little more clinical on our attacking plays."

Summarising the season in his typically low key fashion, Cleary regarded the Warriors 2008 campaign as another step in the right direction.

"We're sort of slowly building," Cleary said.

"Over the last three years, we've made the finals twice and we would have made it the other year except for the four points deducted, so gradually getting there.

"The guys we've got are improving and we've certainly got some good young kids coming and we'll do some recruitment as well, so I certainly believe we can get a little bit better again next year.

"Our aim is to get a consistent club. I think we're getting that, it's all about improvement."

Tate, who could line up against several of his clubmates if selected for Australia in the World Cup, said the Warriors hadn't surprised themselves with their efforts this year.

"We've always had the talent in the team," Tate said.

"We do lose a couple of leaders, but we've got a couple of young kids coming through that are ready to step up and I really believe it's good times ahead for us."

Despite Saturday night's loss Price insisted Wiki had still gone out a winner as he said the club's season had lasted three weeks longer than anyone expected.

"We had a lot of things not go our way early in the season and everyone wrote us off but the coaching staff," Price said.

"We've a lot of supporters who believed in us and the players believed in themselves which is the most important thing.

"Hopefully we'll continue that on for next year, because we've got a lot of young players and guys like Ruben Wiki and Logan Swann have left a fantastic legacy."

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