2022 NRL Season Preview
1 Mar 2022

2022 New Zealand Warriors NRL Season Preview

The Warriors will spend their third straight season away from home, this time having fully prepared for a campaign in Australia with an outside chance of returning to Auckland in the final weeks if everything goes perfectly regarding the New Zealand border.

That doesn’t mean it’ll get a whole lot easier than last year, where Nathan Brown’s side performed a narrow escape to avoid winding up in the bottom four.

Now based in Redcliffe, the team have lost Roger Tuivasa-Sheck but regained favourite son Shaun Johnson, who will need a mega year if the club are to go anywhere, with Reece Walsh in a similar position.

The intriguing signing of Ashley Taylor also throws a spanner in the works for a team who need consistency more than just about anything else heading into the new season - a trait the Warriors have struggled with for as long as they have existed.

Recruitment report

Ins: Lleyton Finau (2022), Shaun Johnson (Cronulla Sharks, 2023), Otukinekina Kepu (2024), Valingi Kepu (2024), Aaron Pene (Melbourne Storm, 2023), Ashley Taylor (Gold Coast Titans, 2022)

Outs: Leeson Ah Mau (retired), Kane Evans (Hull FC), David Fusitu'a (Leeds Rhinos), Peta Hiku (North Queensland Cowboys), Karl Lawton (Manly Sea Eagles), Ken Maumalo (Wests Tigers), Sean O'Sullivan (Penrith Panthers), Hayze Perham (Parramatta Eels), Jamayne Taunoa-Brown (North Queensland Cowboys), Chad Townsend (North Queensland Cowboys), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Rugby union), Paul Turner (Gold Coast Titans)

Star player: Reece Walsh

Walsh had a phenomenal breakout rookie season in Warriors colours. Despite not being moved from the Broncos to his new club until mid-season, he quickly challenged Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for the fullback jumper and will take permanent ownership of it this season.

He was selected as part of the Queensland State of Origin squad and was set to make his debut until injury got in the way. It would hardly be a surprise to see him back in that picture this year as he moves on from an off-field indiscretion and attempts to move the Warriors back up the table.

Rising star: Rocco Berry

A young rugby convert who can play at either fullback or centre, Berry is likely to start the season in the centres for the Warriors and is the best young talent likely to play consistent football for the Warriors this season.

A star in the making, Berry has speed to burn and footwork that even the stars of yesteryear would be proud of. Not only is he set to start for the Warriors, but he will be filling big boots left by Peta Hiku with an enormous passing and defensive role to fill.

Most under pressure: Shaun Johnson

Shaun Johnson is a vastly different player to what he was when he left the Warriors at the end of his first stint with the club some years ago.

But that is exactly what the Warriors need. All around Johnson will be players with flamboyant styles. Walsh, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Addin Fonua-Blake, Matt Lodge and Kodi Nikorima, just to name a few. Ashley Taylor could still yet play, but Johnson, as the veteran of the team, will be required to provide the calming influence, and that is going to leave him as an under pressure half.

Five matches to watch

Match 1: Round 1, vs Dragons, at Sunshine Coast Stadium (Sat, Mar 12, 5:30pm)

Match 2: Round 7, vs Storm, at AAMI Park (Mon, Apr 25, 7:00pm)

Match 3: Round 10, vs Rabbitohs, at Suncorp Stadium (Sat, May 14, 3:00pm)

Match 4: Round 16, vs Tigers, at Mt Smart Stadium (Sun, Jul 3, 2:00pm)

Match 5: Round 25, vs Titans, at Mt Smart Stadium (Sat, Sep 3, 3:00pm)

2022 Expectations

The Warriors, on the road again and without substantial improvements to their squad, will struggle this season. They could yet produce some excellent performances, and will be competitive, likely not getting blown out all that often, but they just don't seem to have the X-Factor and consistency to get over the line on a regular basis.

The Warriors will likely look like they are going to challenge for a spot in the top eight at various points during the year, but in truth will be lucky to escape the bottom four.