Squad Breakdown: NZ Warriors SC roster analysis

We take an in-depth look at the New Zealand Warriors SuperCoach credentials heading into the 2022 NRL season.

NRL Pre Season Squad Breakdown

The New Zealand Warriors will embark on what is essentially their third season in a row based away from home and are outsiders to make the NRL Top 8.

The Warriors finished on 8 wins and 16 losses and were 4 competition points out of the Top 8 in 12th place for 2021.

Excuses can be made for the Warriors with a new coach in Nathan Brown and a heavily disrupted pre-season and off-season with the uncertainty of Covid protocols in New Zealand mucking them around.

Season 2022 the Warriors are set for a revival and are stacked with Supercoach relevant players.

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They have a relatively soft draw to start the year with games against the Dragons (H), Titans (A), Tigers (A), Broncos (H) and Cowboys (H).

Note all Warriors home games in 2022 are set to be played at Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe.

With our predicted teams, for SuperCoach purposes we’ve included any players returning from injury/suspension in the first three rounds in the starting line-up.

This combines both the likely starting teams and best 17s, as initial price changes occur after Round 3.

Let’s take a look at the Warriors’ SuperCoach prospects to begin the new season.

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1. Reece Walsh 2. Marcelo Montoya 3. Viliami Vailea 4. Rocco Berry 5. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Matt Lodge 9. Wayde Egan 10. Addin Fonua-Blake 11. Eliesa Katoa 12. Euan Aitken 13. Josh Curran

Bench: 14. Jazz Tevaga 15. Bunty Afoa 16. Aaron Pene 17. Bailey Sironen

Injuries/suspensions: Tohu Harris (Knee, Indefinite), Reece Walsh (Rd-2), Matt Lodge (Rd-2)

Analysis: The centre position vacated by Peta Hiku’s departure to the Cowboys is up for grabs and Vailea has been in a tussle in the pre-season with Broncos loan player Jesse Arthurs for the spot.

Eliesa Katoa appears to be given a good crack at the right edge back-rower role outside SJ with Curran moving to lock to cover the missing workrate of Tohu Harris who will hopefully be back around Round 8 from an ACL reconstruction.

Ben Murdoch-Masila and Jack Murchie will certainly push for inclusion in the 17 off the interchange bench.

Exciting young hooker Taniela Otukolo should provide valuable position coverage if Egan gets injured.

Full squad: Bunty Afoa (2023), Euan Aitken (2023), Jesse Arthars (2022), Rocco Berry (2024), Josh Curran (2023), Wayde Egan (2024), Addin Fonua-Blake (2023), Tohu Harris (2024), Chanel Harris-Tavita (2022), Shaun Johnson (2023), Temple Kalepo (2022), Eliesa Katoa (2024), Matt Lodge (2022, PO 2023), Marcelo Montoya (2022), Jack Murchie (2022), Ben Murdoch-Masila (2023), Kodi Nikorima (2022), Aaron Pene (2023), Iliesa Ratuva (2022), Pride Petterson-Robati (2022), Adam Pompey (2023), Bayley Sironen (2023), Ash Taylor (2022), Jazz Tevaga (2022, PO 2023), Viliami Vailea (2023), Reece Walsh (2023, PO 2024), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (2024)

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Tohu Harris // 601,500 // 2RF // 2021 Ave: 69

Tohu fans are going to have to be patient this year as he recovers from an ACL reconstruction and looks at a return about a third of the way into the season

The obvious play is to sit and wait for a couple of months and get a good look at Tohu’s output upon his return before bringing him into the side.

This way you can avoid the initial risk of re-injury and also most likely get Tohu at a reduced rate on his hefty starting price.

Josh Curran // $586,800 // 2RF // 2021 Ave: 67

Curran is tracking as a left-field choice in the stacked 2RF position.

The biggest problem I see with Curran, who I’m a massive fan of as a player, is the shift into the lock position to cover Tohu at the start of the season and how that will affect his minutes and attacking output.

Initially I got really excited at the thought of Curran running off SJ this season, and now with the move into the middle he will more than likely be trucking it up the middle off the dummy half.

I did however notice in the Warriors one and only trial against Melbourne there seemed to be a clear plan for the pre-line chain passing from the Warriors forwards amongst each other which could suit Curran’s game very well.

It’s not an easy decision for Supercoaches either way because he is a player you wouldn’t want to be without if he starts the season on fire.

I’m leaning towards having a look at him first at this stage and making a decision on him within the first two weeks as to whether he needs to be in my team.

Most appealing to me is his current 6.5% ownership which definitely gives him POD status.

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Addin Fonua-Blake // $505,000// FRF // 2021 Ave: 58

I have heard a lot of people on Supercoach podcasts talking up AFB this year and putting him in their starting line-up.

I absolutely love AFB as an NRL player and he has been handy for me in Supercoach also over the years but I think he is priced up to value in 2022.

By that I mean I think you’re more than likely going to get right on or thereabouts what he is projected to score which is around the 58 SC points per game.

What could see him increase value and scoring this year? 

Well he did have a rather long layoff for injury last year and that may have inhibited his scoring over the year and if the Warriors get the chain-pre-line passing going then he could see an increase in attacking stats. 

If Supercoaches can see those above improvements coming into AFB’s game in 2022 than his current ownership of just under 12% will certainly increase over the course of the year.

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Eliesa Katoa // $353,600 // 2RF // 2021 Ave: 40

Second year syndrome they call it… Whatever it was it hit Katoa hard in 2021.

He battled with injury and probably learning the game properly and getting his body in the correct shape to play out a full NRL season in the back-row.

After averaging 57 from 13 games in 2021 Katoa regressed in production output to an average of 40 from 18 games.

You can expect a bounce back now that he has secured the 2RF position for the Warriors to start the season.

In addition to that Katoa will be running off one of the most experienced and best ballplayers in the game in Shaun Johnson, so he looks a really good value proposition at least until Tohu Harris returns to the team.

There really isn’t a lot of downside, except maybe Nathan Brown doesn’t see him as an 80 minute edge backrower and may look to play him more like 60-70 minutes.

Even if this is the case, expect a significant spike in scoring average for Eliesa Katoa in the first eight weeks of the 2022 season.

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Shaun Johnson // $462,000 // HFB-5-8 // 2021 Ave: 53

SJ returns home! What a story it will be if he can get the Warriors back to the finals.

Unfortunately one of the most exciting players of his generation has increasingly struggled to stay on the field the last five years.

This culminated in 2021 for the Sharks which saw SJ play only 10 games and average only 53 which is about 10-12 Supercoach points per game down on his average in the three years prior.

Dual positioning is a plus, but the question you have to ask is whether SJ can stay on the field?

Supercoaches are usually risk averse creatures, particularly at the start of the year, but SJ is just under 17% owned which is a fairly decent percentage given the year he has just had.

This is a hard call for me to give unbiased advice about but all I would say is trust your gut with SJ and have backup plans in case his body lets him down again.

Euan Aitken // $486,000 // CTW-2RF // 2021 Ave: 55

In the past Supercoaches would be chomping at the bit to get a player like Aitken into their team, but times have changed and the game is different.

How different? We won’t really know until we watch a few rounds and see how the minor rule changes affect the Supercoach scoring landscape.

Aitken is essentially that 2RF that has the valuable dual positioning for CTW that was so commonly used as a weapon in previous years to get more base heavy players into Supercoach teams.

With the emergence of the CTW position as one of the most important, if not the most important position to get right because of the wild swings in scoring, Aitken may not be as popular as pre-2021 years.

Aitken is 20% owned at this stage and he will more than likely be in my side because I feel as an 80 minute player he can provide value and outscore his priced average of 55 SC points.

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Rocco Berry // $322,200 // FLB-CTW // 2021 Ave: 37

He’s young and he has plenty of upside! That’s the argument for Rocco Berry.

Watching Berry you felt like with more opportunity he could really be something special for the Warriors.

What he did in 2021 he did well and that is reflected in his 37 average.

Generally my rule is not to pick a centre in CTW unless they are a big tackle breaker or offloader (think Konrad Hurrell and Esan Marsters) or they kick goals (Lomax).

With Rocco Berry I might just find myself breaking my own rule.

Matthew Lodge // $498,300 // FRF // 2021 Ave: 57

Like him or loathe him, Matt Lodge is coming into his prime as a footballer. The modern game suits his game and I think he is a super POD to start the season.

Lodge will not play Round 1 so bear that in mind, but I think he can return and hit the ground running from Round 2 onwards.

Pre-line passing, offloads and tackle breaks are all features of Lodge’s game and if he can keep his discipline under control I’m going to go out on a limb and say he can be one of the Top 5 averaging FRFs in Supercoach in 2022.

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Aaron Pene // $287,400 // FRF // 2021 Ave: 33

It’s an awkward price because Pene was a consistent contributer for the Storm last year and fulfilled his role well.

Pene played nine games for the Storm in 2021 and averaged 33 SC points in 33 minutes.

The PPM is there so if he can see a rise in minutes to say 40-45 minutes expect his SC point scoring to go up accordingly.

I’m not going to start with Pene because I think AFB and Lodge are set to play big minutes, with Bunty Afoa and Pene the impact FRF’s off the bench when everyone is fit and firing, but I’ll certainly be keeping my eye on him.

Viliami Vailea // $205,100 // CTW // 2021 Ave: 27

Vailea is currently fighting with Jesse Arthurs for the vacant centre position and some sources believe he has won the job for Round 1.

At close to bargain basement price you can’t really go wrong with Vailea if he is named. In 13 games for Redcliffe Dolphins last year he scored 7 tries, had 7 line breaks and 51 tackle breaks.

He looks an exciting prospect on the edge for the Warriors.

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Reece Walsh // $557,300 // FLB // 2021 Ave: 64

Don’t get me wrong, Walsh has serious potential to be a marquee player and he looks special, but the hype train well and truly left the station on him last year.

Some of the things he did for the Warriors were spectacular, but if you analysed the video I think it would be very easy to make a case he lost the Warriors more games than he won.

And that is fine because he is a young fullback and he is learning, but I just think to expect him to elevate his game to be SC relevant in the stacked FLB position is a bit of a stretch.

I’d be steering clear and sticking with the safer FLB options.

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