The kids are alright. That's the message from NZ Warriors coach Nathan Brown, after their dramatic 24-20 NRL victory over North Queensland Cowboys.
In a stunning display of attacking football, the Warriors raced out to a 24-4 halftime lead, but were forced to hang on for dear life, as the Cowboys battled back in the second spell.
While Warriors sides of the past might have wilted under that pressure, the class of 2021 did what they needed to secure victory in Gosford.
Speaking after the Warriors' fourth win of the season, Brown gave credit to the younger members of his side, most of whom are playing their first full NRL season.
"The pleasing thing, when we put them all out there, is that we know they're long-term players," Brown says. "We're not putting wood ducks out there, who are filling a hole for a couple of weeks.
"They're blokes we feel can be playing for the club in two, three, four years' time.
"That's credit to the recruitment and you've got to give ‘Mooks’ [former coach Stephen Kearney] a fair bit of credit there, because he brought a lot of those blokes into the club with ‘Sully’ [recruitment manager Peter O'Sullivan] and introduced those blokes.
"To put the win into context, Reece [Walsh] has played one game, Rocco Berry has played one, Ed Kosi debuted, Josh Curran played his eighth game, Jamayne Taunoa-Brown is 20-something, Bayley Sironen is 20-something, Adam Pompey is 20-something.
"So we've got a lot of young players, and to just hang in there and win is pleasing, because we should get a lot of learnings out of it, in particular, the second half, with some things we could have done better.
"When you've got a lot of young ones on your wing and you're hanging in there, you've got to be happy about it."
Teen sensation Reece Walsh has shone over the last two weeks, thrown into the deep end against Melbourne Storm on ANZAC Day, then asked to play out of position at five-eighth against the Cowboys.
"What surprised me is how he's actually very confident, which is pleasing, because he's just a little footy player, and we've got to make sure, as coaches, we don't stuff him up," Brown says.
"He likes to play and the reality is we've got to let him play. He is a very talented player and has been raised well, has got good manners and very polite.
"The biggest job, because all of you characters are going to be saying so many good things about him in the media, is making sure he stays as the kid who's turned up.
"That's the key for us, and his game will develop and grow.
"He'll get a lot of learnings out of today and he had some brilliant stuff, and he had some stuff where, when he understands the context of where the game was, how he could have managed things a little different, but he's certainly a very talented player."
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