NRL: Australian rugby league great Billy Slater backs NZ Warriors as Premiership contenders

The shorthanded NZ Warriors' dominant win over South Syndey Rabbitohs last weekend has earned them hordes of new believers, among them Australian legend Billy Slater.

Despite missing five first-choice players, the Warriors roasted the Rabbitohs on their own territory on Saturday, running in six tries in a 34-4 beatdown at Accor Stadium.

The Warriors' third straight win lifts them to sixth place on the ladder, inside the all-important top-eight for the first time this season, making their slow start to 2024 merely a distant memory.

Speaking on Australian network Channel Nine's Footy Show on Sunday, two-time NRL Premiership winner and current Queensland State of Origin coach Slater was adamant Andrew Webster's squad has the quality to bring the club's first title back to Auckland this season.

Billy Slater has led Queensland to two State of Origin titles.
Billy Slater has led Queensland to two State of Origin titles. Photo credit: Getty Images

"They're dialled in. They can win the competition," Slater said.

"They're a squad. They're a team. They're a club. Everyone loves the Warriors.

"If the Warriors make it through to the Grand Final it will be a huge occasion and I think they can.

"I think they can win the comp."

With the likes of Addin Fonua-Blake and Shaun Johnson uncertain for next season, fellow Australian great Brad Fittler believes the Warriors need to strike while the iron is hot and take full advantage of what he describes as their "window" of opportunity.

"This is their shot," said Fittler, who captained the Sydney Roosters side which beat the Warriors in the 2002 NRL Grand Final.

"There's a chance of losing some really key players there."

The Warriors fell agonisingly short last year, with their resurgent run to the playoffs ending at the hands of Brisbane Broncos in the preliminary final.

Slater cites the additions of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Kurt Capewell as two significant assets he think can help the Warriors get over the hump, awarding Webster a huge amount of credit for his impact at Mt Smart.

"Andrew Webster has done a great job since moving over to New Zealand and created this culture," Slater added.

The Warriors will be out to keep the ball rolling and record a fourth consecutive win against Manly Sea Eagles in Auckland on Saturday.