Cartwright respects no-frills Warriors - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Cartwright respects no-frills Warriors

By Laine Clark 08/09/2010 09:30:37 PM Comments (0)

No flair, no stars, no frills - it may not sound like a glowing endorsement but Gold Coast coach John Cartwright's assessment of NRL rivals New Zealand Warriors was meant to be a compliment.

The Warriors flew into Queensland on Wednesday full of confidence ahead of Friday night's NRL finals clash with the Titans at Skilled Park - and why not?

They have been branded premiership dark horses by league great Brad Fittler and buoyed by Micheal Luck's return from injury.

And in a further boost, they received possibly the ultimate rap from an unlikely source - hard-marking rival coach Cartwright.

"They just remind me of how we play," the Titans mentor said.

"They are less flamboyant than in past years. They are not a star-studded side - but they work hard for each other.

"From one to 17 they do the little things well that win games."

The team is perhaps personified by their hard-tackling lock, Luck, who is coming back from an horrific cut to his thigh that almost made captain Simon Mannering throw up.

He missed their back-to-back wins against Brisbane and Parramatta but makes a timely return for the Warriors' first finals campaign since 2008 - much to Cartwright's frustration.

"He's their backbone. He's a worker. He's the type of bloke you would like in the trenches with you," Cartwright said of Luck.

Luck's return sets up an intriguing battle with a Titans pack featuring fellow hard nut Greg Bird.

And Bird clearly relished the challenge, throwing down the gauntlet by claiming the Titans big boys could handle whatever the Warriors could throw at them.

"They are big, in the middle and out wide with `The Beast' (winger Manu Vatuvei) trampling blokes at 115kg," Bird said.

"That's something most sides haven't got.

"But everyone knows football games are won up the middle - and we have been strong there in recent weeks."

Another intriguing subplot is one of the Titans' great finds of 2010 - former Warriors flyer Clinton Toopi.

After signing a last minute one year deal Toopi, 30, has grabbed his NRL lifeline with both hands.

And he won't need much motivation against the Warriors where he played 129 games before leaving for the UK League in 2006.

While the Titans have met the Warriors twice this year - winning both games - the NRL finals clash marks the first time Toopi will line up against good mate and rival centre Jerome Ropati.

"Last week I flicked him a text and said 'see you in the finals'," Ropati told NZPA.

"I actually didn't think we were going to play them in the finals and it now happens that we're doing it this week, so it's quite ironic."

While they may be close, Ropati, 25, admitted he would have to do some research on Toopi.

"Clinton is a really good friend of mine and I've always looked up to him over my career," he said.

"He's one of the best centres going around when he's on form and he's doing well right now.

"I'm going to have a look at some video on him. I'm going to have to do my homework on him."

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