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Warriors looking ahead to next season

06/08/2009 04:40:45 PM Comments (0)

The Warriors have one eye on next season as they prepare to host NRL high-flyers Gold Coast on Sunday.

While the Titans are sitting third on the table and chasing home advantage in the finals, the Warriors are third from bottom and only have pride left to play for in the remaining five rounds.

Coach Ivan Cleary has responded to the disappointing 32-32 draw with Penrith last weekend, when the Warriors let slip a 32-6 lead, by dropping four of his starting 13.

And he agreed on Thursday there was a nod towards next year in the composition of the squad to face the Titans.

"I guess it's finding a balance between answering a few questions in your head and still making sure it doesn't jeopardise your chance to win," he said.

One of the omissions, fullback Wade McKinnon, was made for disciplinary reasons after he was late to a recovery session the day after the match against Penrith.

McKinnon's replacement in the No.1 jersey is exciting youngster Kevin Locke, who has been moved from the wing.

Locke has the chance to press his claims to the position where he played most of his earlier football.

"It's an opportunity for him to step into that role in the NRL," Cleary said.

"I know he's looking forward to it and we'll see how he goes."

Cleary said McKinnon had taken his demotion well.

"He understands completely," he said.

"It's just one of those things. It just had to be done and he backed the decision."

Elsewhere in the starting line-up, Cleary is giving an NRL debut to centre Elijah Taylor and has inserted Aaron Heremaia and fellow rookie Lewis Brown into five-eighth and hooker respectively.

Heremaia, a hooker for most of his six appearances for the Warriors, will become the fifth player used in the No.6 jersey this year.

Brown, who has been highly impressive as a backrower, will get to operate in the position for which he was signed.

Cleary admitted the Warriors' fortunes over the past five months had been akin to "a kick in the guts".

The club began the season as third favourites for the title, but their results have gone downhill since they opened their campaign with two wins.

Of the draw with Penrith, Cleary said he had never been associated with a 26-point comeback by an opposition side.

It was particularly disappointing given the Warriors had played well for most of the first hour and during the 10-minute golden-point period, he said.

Lessons his players could take away with them included the need for composure so they could finish more of their sets and not hand a team like Penrith any opportunity for a comeback.

"If you give them a bit of a sniff, they have the strikepower," Cleary said.

"I guess the best lesson is not to give them that sort of opportunity to start with, because momentum is big in our game."

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