Opinion: The NZ Warriors' 2018 report card

OPINION: The 2018 season has been a true rollercoaster if there ever was one for NZ Warriors fans. The team had some outstanding wins along with some dismal outings, but still made the top eight, which was the main priority.

They achieved much more than people expected to the delight of many, and along the way many individual players enjoyed career-best seasons.

Let's fill out the report card on those that carried the Warriors into the promised land.  

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck - A+

The Warriors' skipper showed his true intent from the opening match of the season, when he pulled off some remarkable tackles to complement an exceptional running game we hadn't seen in a while.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck won the Simon Mannering medal.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck won the Simon Mannering medal. Photo credit: Photosport

He would have earned an A++ for this year, but he lost a 'plus' when he got his ankles broken against the Titans. Other than that, it was hard to fault RTS' season.

David Fusitu'a - A

The leaping winger started with a bang and was the NRL's leading try-scorer for most of the season, but a six-week slide without a try saw him slip down the ranks. He got back in the groove and ended up equalling the record for most tries by a Warrior in a single season with 23. 

Ken Maumalo - A-

Once again Maumalo made big strides, his running game helping the Warriors get go-forward early in sets, while he also improved aspects of his defence. He doesn't score many tries for a winger, but he's done everything else right.

Peta Hiku - B

Hiku looked great at the start of the season when the Warriors were winning, and his missed-tackle stats went unnoticed. He was caught out a few times at Penrith and with injury, he missed valuable time, but returned to snatch his centre spot back.

Hiku will want to improve on his defence during the off-season and he'll be a target in 2019. 

Regardless, it was great to see him back in Warriors black this season.

Peta Hiku.
Peta Hiku. Photo credit: AAP

Anthony Gelling - C

Most of Gelling's appearances were off-the-bench cameos. He got a few starts and showed signs of brilliance, but he couldn't crack the starting side on a regular bases.

He played a big role in the Warriors' home win against the Dragons, and also scored a couple of tries this season.

Solomone Kata - C

Kata had a horrible 2017 for several reasons, but this season he showed what he was capable of when fit and healthy. He would be better served passing the ball out to Ken Maumalo more and not darting from dummy-half on fifth tackle close to the line. Had some flashes of brilliance, but that was all let down with a poor performance against Penrith in the final game of the season. 

But compared to last year, the Tongan international was a far more rounded performer in 2018.

Gerard Beale - C+

Beale missed more than half the season, recovering from a broken leg suffered at the World Cup. His comeback started with some reserve-grade games and then stints off the bench.

He played some first-grade, but never set the world alight, despite solid performances. 

Blake Green - B+

Finally, the Warriors have a solid, experienced half to partner Shaun Johnson. Green was an excellent addition to the squad, and he appeared to take the Steve Price approach and embraced the Warriors culture.

He proved to be on-field leader, producing big plays and well-placed kicks, and showed his leadership skills on the field.

Shaun Johnson and Blake Green.
Shaun Johnson and Blake Green. Photo credit: Photosport

Shaun Johnson - A-

The addition of Green took the pressure off Johnson, who thrived alongside the Aussie. He missed a couple of games due to injury, but when on the field, he did a solid job.

Oh, and the Warriors' record without him now is 5-20.

Mason Lino - B

Lino was outstanding in the games he featured in, filling in for both Green and Johnson, but also struggled at times. For a while, he had some wondering whether the Warriors even needed Johnson - then common sense prevailed.

Still, he was a great halves backup.

Issac Luke - A

Where had this Issac Luke been over the previous two years? The hooker was outstanding in 2018 and one of the main reasons for the Warriors' success.

His on-field impact was immense and his team tended to struggle in his absence.

Hopefully the Warriors re-sign him for next season. 

Karl Lawton - B

The former Titan had mainly short stints off the bench, but often brought a spark onto the pitch, with slick running from dummy-half.

Karl Lawton.
Karl Lawton. Photo credit: Photosport

Jazz Tevaga - A-

Tevaga was solid this season. He began to play more lock - his natural position - making strong runs, looking to offload and tackling like a machine.

But things changed for the Christchurch youngster when he played hooker - I'm not a fan.  

If he re-signs with the Warriors, can Kearney please just use him as a lock because he's thriving in that position.

Agnatius Paasi - A-

What a return to the Warriors. Passi was immense for the team and one of the best during their late run towards the finals.

He averaged 100m per game, while completing 87 percent of his tackles. Another fantastic signing, who will only continue to improve.

James Gavet - A-

Gavet missed time due to injury, but was a great contributor when healthy. The man with 12 different hairstyles during a single game continues to grow.

Some of his stats are almost identical to Paasi.

James Gavet.
James Gavet. Photo credit: AAP

Chris Satae - C+

A long-term prospect, he showed good form off the bench that led to a contract extension.

Sam Lisone - C-

Lisone has the skills to be a solid impact player off the bench, but rookie errors, along with silly penalties, let the prop down.

He got suspended late in the season and couldn't find his way back into the playing squad.

Bunty Afoa - B+

The third-year prop took on a bigger role this year and took it in his stride. He was incredibly strong carrying the ball, nearly doubling his post-contact and overall metres from last year.

Adam Blair - B+

Some were furious at his signing, but his addition was spectacular.

Yes, he did some brainless and stupid things, but his leadership was essential to the team's success.

With Mannering now retired, Blair's voice in the locker-room will be more important.  

Leivaha Pulu - C+

The former Titan was set for a big role in 2018, before an injury in round six ruled him out for most of the season. He returned in Round 20, but had limited minutes off the bench.

Isaiah Papali'i and David Fusitu'a.
Isaiah Papali'i and David Fusitu'a. Photo credit: Photosport

Tohu Harris - A

Harris holds the key to the Warriors' future success. During his time out injured, the club struggled more often than not. His combination on the edge with Peta Hiku and David Fusitu'a was amazing at the start of the season and hopefully it can be built on in the future. 

Like Blair, Harris is another player who will have to take more of a leadership role.

Isaiah Papali'i - B

The Warriors' Rookie of Year probably played more first-grade than expected, as he filled in for the injured Simon Mannering and Tohu Harris. Played lots of 80-minute performances and showed why he's one to watch for the future.

Simon Mannering - A

The guy plays like a machine every single match, averaging 35 tackles and 94 running metres per game.

Mannering seemed like he was the only player who actually trying at times and played with his heart on his sleeve. He was once again the most reliable player and worked tirelessly every match.

Not considered due to lack of first-grade: Joseph Vuna, Sam Cook, Ligi Sao

Didn't play in 2018: Nathaniel Roache, Blake Ayshford, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, James Bell

Ben Francis is a Newhub online sports producer. 

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