NRL: Is NZ Warriors winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak NRL's best finisher?

Is NZ Warriors winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak the NRL's best finisher? His coach certainly thinks so.

With the Kiwi side sitting comfortably inside the NRL's top eight - currently fifth and one win outside the top four - the efforts of the 27-year-old have been a key contributor in the Warriors' standings.

This season, Watene-Zelezniak has crossed over for 15 tries in only 12 games, bettering his previous career-best campaign, when he scored 12 for Penrith Panthers in 2016.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak scores against St George Illawarra Dragons.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak scores against St George Illawarra Dragons. Photo credit: Photosport

Notably, though, Watene-Zelezniak's acrobatics have seen him produce stunning finish after stunning finish, often leaping metres into the air before placing the ball into the right-hand corner, leaving defenders unable to stop him scoring a try.

As far as individual efforts go, Watene-Zelezniak sits fifth on the list of try-scorers this season.

Only Newcastle Knights' Dominic Young (18 tries), Alofiana Khan-Pereira of Gold Coast Titans (17), and Parramatta Eels pair Clint Gutherson and Maika Sivo (both 16) have scored more than Watene-Zelezniak.

However, Watene-Zelezniak missed the opening rounds of the NRL campaign, seeing his scores come at a ratio of 1.25 tries per game, comfortably the most prolific player this season. 

For coach Webster, those feats put Watene-Zelezniak comfortably among the game's best finishers at present. 

"He's got to be up there, jeez," said Webster. "The try he scored against Canberra last time, the kick across field, come down and score - I don't know how he did that.

"The jump, one hand [finish] and the roll is pretty cool."

And, as Webster explains, Watene-Zelezniak's efforts don't happen by chance, rather by hours of work on the training paddock.

And with at least six games to play before the NRL finals, it's more than conceivable Watene-Zelezniak betters the record for most Warriors tries in a season, held by David Fusitu'a and Francis Meli - 23. 

"Our assistant coach Rich Agar does drills with him on that," Webster explained. "He just lays out the mats, they run, they jump and they roll. It's not a fluke, they actually practice that.

"Dallin's such a freak athlete, he's always had that ability. If you went and watched his tries before, he's [always] done that.

"But our thing is if we're good at something, we want to stay good at it, so we practice it. If we're not good at it, we want to get better at it.

"He's always had freakish stuff like that in his kitbag." 

Watene-Zelezniak has the chance to add to his try tally on Friday night, when the Warriors welcome Canberra Raiders to Go Media Stadium Mt Smart.