Coach Matthew Elliott says the Warriors cannot afford to underestimate a Wests Tigers side with toughness to match youthful talent.
Warriors coach Matthew Elliott is sounding plenty of warning bells for his players as they prepare to face the Wests Tigers in Wellington on Saturday.
The Warriors are backing up from their first win of the NRL season, a gutsy 20-16 success over North Queensland that broke a 12-year drought in Townsville.
But Elliott believes they’ll need to lift their game against a Tigers side who he says are sitting in the top third of the competition for a reason.
He says he knew the Tigers had a good core of experience in their ranks.
“What I didn’t have totally covered was the young kids,” he said.
“My goodness, they have had some players come on and make a massive difference there. We’ve had a look at that and we will underestimate this team at our own peril.”
The Tigers finished second-bottom in 2013 in Benji Marshall’s last year with the club.
They were among the wooden spoon favourites for this season, but over the past fortnight have beaten Gold Coast and highly-fancied South Sydney.
Elliott cited the combination of fullback James Tedesco and teenage halfback Luke Brooks as a particular danger.
He says the Warriors’ kicking game will have to go up a level against a player like Tedesco, who liked to attack the ball.
As for 19-year-old Brooks, Elliott believes he had the goods to be a quality No.7 for a long time.
“He’s getting plenty of wraps for a good reason,” he said.
“He plays direct and he’s not scared to get tackled. Souths ran monsters at him and he aimed up.
“It’s okay being talented, but the NRL has a pre-requisite of being tough as well and at moment he’s ticking both boxes.”
Elliott has made one injury-related change to the side who got past the Cowboys.
Utility Thomas Leuluai has recovered from a lengthy groin complaint to be in line to make his first appearance of the season.
He has been added to the bench in place of Feleti Mateo, who has a knee injury but is expected to be available to face Cronulla in Sydney next week.
Leuluai played every minute of the Warriors’ 24 matches last season, providing stability and direction at five-eighth.
Elliott said the 31-Test Kiwi offered options at hooker and in the halves, and even at lock, and his presence in training this week was a reminder of his importance to the team.
The match will be the seventh for the Warriors at Westpac Stadium, where their record is one draw and five losses.
There will be a personal milestone for second rower Simon Mannering who will captain the Warriors for a club-record 92nd time.