Jones won't be carrying Warriors' hopes - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Jones won't be carrying Warriors' hopes

By Steve Jancetic 03/03/2009 12:56:54 PM Comments (0)

For once in his distinguished rugby league career, Warriors prodigal son Stacey Jones won't have to carry the hopes of club or country on his slender shoulders.

Now 32 and three years removed from the NRL, Jones' comeback to the Warriors is instead being seen as a bonus for coach Ivan Cleary, who is looking to build on last year's fairytale run to the preliminary finals.

"It's a bit unfair on Stacey to say we're pinning our hopes on him because that's not the case at all," Cleary told AAP.

"He's come back because he wants to play and he thinks he can help.

"I guess how much help and in what context, we're yet to find out, but in the two trial games he's played he's shown he's definitely still got it, and the good thing is I'm sure he will improve.

"I don't believe our success or failure will hinge solely on Stacey - we've got a fair few options around him, we're reasonably strong in the halves which is probably something that we haven't always been able to say."

But what an addition a fit and firing Jones would be to a side which finished 80 minutes away from a grand final berth.

Despite his lack of expectation, Cleary admitted to some surprise at level of Jones' play so early into his comeback.

"Yeah, I'm a little bit surprised for sure," Cleary said.

"It's not easy to do what he's done, he hasn't played in the NRL since 2005.

"Sure he's played in the Super League but he was in France and while I wouldn't say semi-retirement, he was certainly winding down.

"And then he didn't play at all last year."

Just where Jones slots into the line-up could be Cleary's biggest dilemma, given Nathan Fien's tremendous halfback play during the NRL finals and in New Zealand's triumphant World Cup campaign.

The most likely scenario would see Fien slide over to five-eighth, but that could squeeze another new face in former Bronco Joel Moon out of the line-up.

Either way depth in the halves doesn't seem too big an issue for Cleary.

Up front the Warriors will need to find someone to fill the large hole left by Ruben Wiki's retirement, while the departure of Logan Swann, Wairangi Koopu and Epalahame Lauaki will also test the club's depth.

Cleary will be banking on one or two players from his crop of talented youngsters making the step up to the top grade, a group that would have included Sonny Fai only for his tragic drowning at an Auckland beach in January.

Another finals appearance would continue a solid era for the Warriors under Cleary.

The only time they have missed the post-season was in his first year at the club in 2006, when a four-point penalty for a salary cap breach in 2005 cost them a finals berth.

"We've been progressing and getting a bit stronger each year," Cleary said.

"There's been some similarities as well - all three seasons we've started slowly and come home strong - it'd be nice to start a bit quicker.

"We've definitely tried to address it, we've been doing a few little things differently."

No doubt the addition of a certain veteran halfback will add that little bit of difference too.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2020 AAP

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