A dwindling supply of healthy players prevented more Warriors from facing the prospect of being dropped following last Friday’s 48-4 loss to the Cowboys, with interim coach Stacey Jones struggling to piece together a 22-man squad this week.
With Jack Murchie out injured and Euan Aitken missing due to personal reasons, five-eighth Daejarn Asi is the only unforced change to the squad ahead of the round 24 clash with the Panthers, making way for Chanel Harris-Tavita who returns from a knee injury.
The latest personnel losses follow season-ending injuries for Jazz Tevaga, Ronald Volkman and Bayley Sironen, while centre Jesse Arthars is out due to non-COVID illness.
Jones said on top of that there are other injury concerns within the squad this week, leaving him unsure what the final make-up of the team will be come Friday night at BlueBet Stadium.
Match: Panthers v Warriors
Round 24 -
Venue: BlueBet Stadium, Penrith
“We have got a few busted bodies… we are just trying to find some healthy bodies first and foremost and see where they fit,” Jones said.
“There are a couple of boys that are really busted and there’s a couple of other things going on with players getting through training. We have just got to wait and see how we get through the next couple of days.
I just want to make sure that I have got blokes that are going to turn up on Friday and have a go.Stacey Jones
One player perhaps fortunate to keep his spot is fullback Reece Walsh, who missed tackles in the lead up to North Queensland’s first two tries last week and made four handling errors.
Walsh has now made 37 errors across the season, the second-most in the Telstra Premiership, but after being dropped to the bench for poor form back in round 19 he had the support of his coach this week.
Taulagi finishes a lovely Cowboys try
“Obviously Reece was disappointing, and it probably went back to some of his habits that we want to try and get out of his game,” Jones said.
“But Reece is a talented kid and we need him on the field, to be at his best, to give ourselves a chance.
“Reece is pretty clear on what happened last week and how he needs to improve himself.”
The latest batch of absentees means forward Bunty Afoa is the only Warrior to have appeared in all 23 games for the club this season.
The 106-game veteran not only agreed with comments made by Jones in the aftermath of the North Queensland loss, in which he said as many as nine players showed poor attitudes when the going got tough, but said he believed it had been an issue all season.
Match Highlights: Cowboys v Warriors
“Half of the boys will come with the right attitude and the other half are slowly trying to build themselves into the game,” Afoa said.
“It’s been like that this whole season. We haven’t played to our full potential and that hurts.
“You kind of know when someone is off because you have seen the best of them. When you see them not doing the things they are good at, you kind of know ‘is he OK?’ or ‘is his mind here?’.
“If we have got a couple of boys off it hurts the whole team. It takes 17 to win the game, you can’t just rely on a couple of leaders.”