NRL Sharks v warriors Where: PointsBet Stadium, Sydney. When: Sunday, April 2, 6:05 p.m. Coverage: Live Sky Sport 4, live updates on Stuff from 5.45pm
The Sharks may be the red hot favorites to beat the Warriors on Sunday, but there will be 25 other players on the field besides Nicho Hynes.
Hynes was impressive at halfback against the Dragons in the 40-8 win last weekend, but it’s worth considering that the Dragons, along with the Tigers, are one of the worst teams in the NRL this year and perhaps are people still. I’m not giving the Warriors the credit they deserve.
However, Warriors propagandist Addin Fonua Blake knows how dangerous Hynes can be.
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“They ripped shreds off the poor Dragons over the weekend. They’re definitely a threat now that Nicho Hynes is back,” said Fonua Blake.
“He links them all together and their intermediaries are very mobile and fit. They are a tough peloton, so we have our hands full this weekend. But we want to go to Shark Park, get stuck in it and see how we go.
Perhaps enough has been said about what Andrew Webster is has brought to the Warriors this season and the impact the new players have had, but another key difference this year was Fonua-Blake.
Early last year, Fonua-Blake and Matt Lodge were arguably the most damaging front-row combination in the NRL.
But when Lodge walked off mid-season, it coincided with a drop in form from Fonua-Blake.
At the start of this season, Fonua-Blake built an equally impressive combination with Mitch Barnett and although he is currently out with a neck injury, Bunty Afoa has fitted in well with Fonua-Blake, who is still playing at a high level.
Without the hard work that Fonua-Blake, Barnett and Afoa have put in, Shaun Johnson and the backs wouldn’t be able to play as well as they do.
“Mitch Barnett is a very experienced player and brings a lot of energy to his game. He loves chasing it,” said Fonua-Blake.
‘So does Bunty. He’s a very big boy, he loves [coming] from the back fence with all his luggage so we don’t lose too much there.
“Bunty and I are similar players. He works hard and does his job as best he can and fulfills a role for us that needs to be done. I’m quite happy with how he’s doing now.”
What has also been pleasing so far this season is the impact Dylan Walker and Jazz Tevaga make as they come in from the substitution bench.
Their energy and enthusiasm have fueled the Warriors in the last two games they have played together.
“I hate backing off those two, but they ruined it for us,” Fonua-Blake smiled.
“Myself and Bunty go out to do a job and when those guys come they change the game.
“In the last two games Jazz has played, he has delivered a real punch off the bench.
“He got a (try) meat pie a few weeks ago and got a short ball of Walks. But Walks brings that leg speed down the middle and he’s a ball player, so he gives the team a different look.
“That helps us in our attack because he’s a link player with Shaun and gets him in the right place.
“The guys outside definitely like to play next to Walks and we’re having some real fun in the middle of him too.”
Another aspect that has worked out well for Warriors this year (yes, there really are that many of them) is that when players make mistakes, they don’t take any tries against them.
They can move quickly from attack to defense and the player who made the mistake doesn’t hang his head.
“Last year we were pretty bad at defending and going into the pre-season we got into some awkward situations,” said Fonua-Blake.
“The guys made mistakes, but it was the willingness to keep on working and on to the next one.
“The guys showed up for each other. If someone made a mistake, we got tight and we were ready for our next job.”
AT A GLANCE
Sharks vs Warriors
Where: PointsBet Stadium, Sydney
When: Sunday, April 2, 6:05 p.m
Live coverage: Celestial sport 4
Referee: Ben Cummins
sharks: William Kennedy, Zion Katoa, Jesse Ramien, Siosifa Talakai, Ronaldo Mulitalo, Matt Moylan, Nico Hynes; Toby Rudolph, Blake Brailey, Braden Hamlin-Uele, Brit Nikora, Teig Wilton, Dale Finucane (c). exchange: Cameron McInnes, Royce Hunt, Jack Williams, Braydon Trindall. reservations: Connor Tracey, Thomas Hazelton, Mawene Hiroti, Samuel Stonestreet, Tuku Hau Tapuha.
warriors: Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Edward Kosi, Viliame Vailea, Adam Pompey, Marcelo Montoya, Ronald Volkman, Shaun Johnson; Addin Fonua-Blake, Wayde Egan, Bunty Afoa, Jackson Ford, Marata Niukore, Tohu Harris (c). exchange: Dylan Walker, Bayley Sirone, Jazz Tevaga, Tom Ale. reservations: Josh Curran, Taine Tuaupiki, Freddy Lussick, Rocco Berry, Demitric Sifakula.