Johnson Eager To Light Up

Source: Wayne Drought/AAP
Shaun Johnson is ready to tear apart the Eels defence. Source: Wayne Drought/AAP

New Zealand Warriors Logo

Warriors v Eels


Mt Smart Stadium

Saturday July 12 – 5:35 PM (AEST)

Form:

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Parramatta Eels Logo

Andrew McFadden should win Dally M coach of the year. At the start of the year, the New Zealand Warriors  were tipped to finish close to the Top 4. But after a very poor start to the season, and the sacking of coach Matthew Elliot, the Warriors were sitting well outside of the Top 8 and feeling very sorry for themselves. But McFadden has turned their season around, and they're now 7th on the ladder. Parramatta  coach Brad Arthur will also be in the running for coach of the year. Given that the Eels have finished with the wooden spoon two years in a row, anything above that is a huge improvement. Heading into this round, the Eels are 9th.

The Warriors are playing not only with the flamboyance we are used to, but they have shown that they can play around some structure as well. Close to the line, they have used a decoy play to get Konrad Hurrell one-on-one a few times, and it's working. Shaun Johnson has always had the dancing feet, but this year it is his kicking game that has been the stand-out. He consistently kicks to open field, and always seems to drop the ball on a dime on the fifth. Ben Matulino returns from knee surgery to take a spot on the bench, while Suaia Matagi starts at prop in place of Sam Rapira, who will miss this week’s game with a back injury.

Arthur has done what his predecessors couldn’t. He has coaxed the best out of Chris Sandow. Former coaches Stephen Kearney and Ricky Stuart had their chance, but just couldn’t get the young superstar to produce his blistering best. Enter Arthur, who seems to have found the key to unlock Sandow's ability. His partnership with Corey Norman continues to blossom, and when used at fullback to cover for Jarryd Hayne, he steps-up again. Sandow will again start at fullback, with Hayne not named to back up after Origin 3. Luke Kelly takes over at halfback. Tim Mannah and Kenny Edwards are out, with Fuifui Moimoi and Ken Sio added to the bench.

It’s always tough to head over the Tasman to face an inform Warriors side. Add to that the absence of Hayne, and the Eels might have a rough time on Saturday night.

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Toby's Tips: Warriors by 12

Toby Burke - Twitter

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