Warriors ready to do battle and go gunning for Marshall Aaron Lawton, Michael Chammas
September 16, 2011
THE New Zealand Warriors have accepted a season-defining two-part mission to ‘‘roughen up’’ Tigers star Benji Marshall and adopt a ‘‘tougher’’ brand of football in tonight’s do-or-die showdown at the SFS.
Brisbane exposed the Warriors’ soft underbelly in last weekend’s 40-10 thrashing at Suncorp Stadium, a performance coach Ivan Cleary described as an ‘‘aberration’’ from what his team had shown this year.
But the Warriors came away convinced a change of attitude and a battle-ready approach could culminate in a berth in next Saturday’s preliminary final against Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park.
‘‘We have to play tough,’’ second-rower Feleti Mateo said. ‘‘This is the semi-finals and I think we probably played a bit soft against the Broncos. We all know that and our biggest focus this week has been on playing tougher and harder.’’
Part of playing ‘‘tougher and harder’’ means ensuring the dynamic Marshall - arguably the best player in the game now - is targeted and stifled for room.
‘‘You probably have to try and roughen Benji up a bit and get him out of his groove,’’ Mateo said.
''He’s a great ball player and you have to try and take time away from good ball players. That’s what we’ll be focusing on. But there are guys in their team, like Robbie Farah, who give Benji good service and he’s playing great footy too.
‘‘Then, on top of that, they’ve got some great forwards who are setting the platform for those guys to play. It’s going to be a collective effort from the boys and, if we shut down their go-forward, then we should go a long way to getting to their ball players.’’
While many were willing to write-off the Warriors following their dismal showing six days ago, Cleary still has the belief his team can reverse the result of last week’s humiliating hit-out.
He said the occasion got the better of his players, but the Warriors’ biggest downfall was their inability to build pressure.
‘‘We get another chance at redemption and a chance to show what we can really do,’’ he said. ‘‘We didn’t really build a platform [against Brisbane]. We got excited and a bit ahead of ourselves. We couldn’t really build any pressure and, to the Broncos’ credit, they sensed that and really put us to the sword.’’
The Warriors played two finals teams (St George Illawarra and North Queensland) in the last two rounds of the regular season. Despite losing to the Dragons, Cleary labelled their end-of-season form as the standard needed against the Tigers.