Consistency will be key in determining whether NZ Warriors can break into the NRL's top eight to end the 2021 season, coach Nathan Brown says.
After 14 games, the Warriors sit 11th on the NRL ladder, two points off eighth place, with 10 regular season games up their sleeve to seal a playoffs berth.
The Warriors have been their own worst enemy at times this year, with six of their nine defeats by a margin of six points or less.
Coupled with injury blows to the likes of Addin Fonua-Blake, Peta Hiku and Chanel Harris-Tavita, and now COVID-enforced absences of Euan Aitken and Josh Curran, the Warriors have been forced into more changes than they'd want week to week.
During those first 14 games, the Warriors are yet to record back-to-back victories this season and are currently on a three-game losing run.
But in his first season with the Kiwi club, Brown says consistency over the coming weeks will be vital, if the Warriors are to put a run together that can see them challenge for a top-eight spot.
The Warriors' next two games see them up against seventh-placed St George Illawarra Dragons on Friday and eighth-placed Cronulla Sharks on July 11. Winning both of those games would lift the Warriors to 16 points and a potential spot in the top eight, depending on other results.
"We could be in a better position on the ladder, if we'd been a little bit more consistent or handled those high pressure situations a little bit better," Brown says. "But at the end of the day, it probably just comes down to being a little bit more consistent.
"If we can gain that consistency and keep some similar people on the field, we're probably as well positioned as most sides that sit around us in positions seven and eight.
"I'm not sure if there's any one of us clubs that are in a better spot than the other clubs. It'll just come down to a bit of luck with keeping similar people on the field and who can find some consistency for long enough."
Aiding the Warriors' cause are the mid-season arrivals of 2016 premiership winner Chad Townsend, returning to the club from the Sharks after leaving in 2015, and Kiwis captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
Both will start against the Dragons on Friday, with Brown hailing their impact since arriving into the Warriors camp.
"They've settled in pretty well. Chad's obviously a good talker and has played in a key position at Cronulla during a successful period.
"Fitting in for Chad's quite easy, as far as the position he plays, and being a vocal point of the team.
"And Dallin being the Kiwi captain and again being an experienced player, they both have plenty of experience, so they've both settled in pretty comfortably."
What's more, Brown also hopes for a quick return for young fullback Reece Walsh, sitting out of the Dragon clash, after picking up a hamstring injury on State of Origin duty with Queensland.
The 18-year-old could well be in contention to return to the side as early as that Sharks game next week.
"He just got out of isolation this morning, so we'll see him at training later on. We're hopeful [that] it's only a short-term thing, but we won't know 100 percent until we see him.
"The Queensland people thought it wasn't too bad."
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