The discovery of try-scoring machine Konrad Hurrell was one of the few bright points from a disappointing 2012 campaign for the Warriors.
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Last year's grand finalists started 2012 under plenty of hype, but things didn't quite live up to expectations...
Round 1 Warriors 20-26 Sea Eagles
Confidence was high for the Warriors heading into the opening game of the season. After winning all three of their February pre-season matches, the Kiwis gave NRL debuts to two stars of their Toyota Cup-winning under-20s team – Konrad Hurrell and Ben Henry – as they chased revenge against the Manly side that had beaten them in the 2011 grand final. In new coach Brian McClennan, the club also had a mentor who had led New Zealand to a Tri-Nations victory and experienced Super League success with Leeds in the UK.
Still, the home side soon found themselves on the back foot at Eden Park, with the Sea Eagles running up an early 16-0 lead as Jerome Ropati limped off the field in his first game back from a knee reconstruction. But Shaun Johnson started a Warriors revival, setting up a Manu Vatuvei try with a jinking, stuttering run, before sidestepping his way through the Manly defence to score himself. The hosts' comeback brought them back to within two points late in the game, only for a Glenn Stewart try to secure a tight victory for Manly.
Round 5 Roosters 26-8 Warriors
A month into the season the Warriors had yet to find any consistency, with two wins and two defeats, but this was the first sign things could turn ugly for the highly-rated New Zealanders. They travelled to Sydney as favourites but trailed from start to finish, thanks to an error-riddled performance in both attack and defence. The Warriors made 14 handling errors and missed 49 tackles, handing the Roosters the bulk of possession and try-scoring opportunities.
A 40-metre try from fill-in fullback Glen Fisiiahi proved the only highlight for the visitors, with captain Simon Mannering slamming his team. "We just played dumb and played right into their hands," Mannering said after the defeat.
Round 7 Warriors 42-22 Rabbitohs
If the Roosters defeat was a glimpse of the Warriors when things were going wrong, their round 7 win over eventual top-four finishers South Sydney showed how strong the team could be when things went right. "Today's the first time we've finished a game this year where we've had more possession and the scoreboard pretty much reflects that," said McClennan after the win, in which his side blew Souths away with four straight tries in the first half, and another four in the second.
Showing aggression in defence and far better execution in attack, the Kiwis punished an error-prone Rabbitohs side with Mannering scoring twice and Johnson laying on a couple of tries from kicks.
Round 9 Warriors 30-20 Broncos
After an erratic start to the season the Warriors had their work cut out for them against a Broncos side riding high on a six-match winning run, which had catapulted them into second place on the table.
But with a 19,000-strong Mt Smart Stadium crowd behind them the Warriors produced their first real half of error-free football of the year, completing 17 of their 18 sets to lead 24-10 at the break thanks to tries from Henry, Johnson, Elijah Taylor and Jacob Lillyman. More impressive than their control in possession was the toughness shown by hooker Nathan Friend, who played all but five minutes of the match with a broken jaw, having refused to go off at halftime.
Round 21 Sea Eagles 24-22 Warriors
The second grand final rematch of the season came at a crucial time for the Warriors. Successive defeats had seen them slip out of the top eight, with the previous week's 24-19 loss at home to Newcastle – in which they'd blown an 18-point lead – being particularly crushing.
In the neutral venue of Perth, the Warriors seemingly bounced back strongly from the Knights loss, running in three early tries to lead 18-0. Even the early loss of Konrad Hurrell to an ankle injury 15 minutes in, and a Jorge Taufua try to Manly on the stroke of halftime, didn't seem to halt the Warriors' momentum, with Manu Vatuvei stretching the lead out to 22-6 with another try early in the second term.
But Manly stormed back into the contest with four-pointers to David Williams and Kieran Foran before a quick-fire double to Daly Cherry-Evans sent the Kiwis crashing to another morale-sapping loss.
Round 24 Warriors 16-18 Panthers
By mid-August the Warriors were in free-fall, facing a sixth-straight defeat with their finals hopes almost gone. Still only two competition points outside the top eight, they were nevertheless in equal 12th position and needed a massive turnaround in the final weeks of the season – and for other results to go their way – in order to remain in contention for the playoffs.
At home against the second-last placed Panthers, even the most pessimistic Warriors fan would have fancied their chances. And they started well, with Henry opening the scoring before a long-range Johnson intercept try put the hosts in control. With 20 minutes left in the match they led 16-6, before it all went wrong yet again. Lachlan Coote snuck out of an attempted tackle from James Maloney to bring the visitors back into the contest, before a Travis Robinson try in the dying minutes gave Penrith the win.
It was a tale of two coaches, with ex-Warriors mentor Ivan Cleary taking a victory on his first visit to his old club since departing for Penrith, while the result would also effectively end the tenure of his replacement. Brian McClennan was sacked two days later, with Tony Iro taking over as caretaker coach for the final two games of the year as the Warriors finished their campaign with an eight-game losing streak. After starting 2012 with so much promise, it will be back to the drawing board in 2013.