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'Every year has to be our year': Success now the expectation for Warriors

The Warriors know they're going from being the hunter to the hunted in 2024 and that the threshold for success has skyrocketed since this time last year.

But the message from their coach this week was simple and emphatic: bring it on. 

Rather than attempt to temper the expectations that have come on the back of their surprise run to the Telstra Premiership preliminary finals last season, Andrew Webster is welcoming them in his second year in charge and says the club's loyal fanbase should now expect the side to contend every year.

"When I was here seven years ago (as a Warriors assistant) they used to say, 'is this our year?' and then when I first arrived (in 2023) they said, 'is this our year?' and my comment then was 'every year has got to be our year, it has to be our year'," he said.

"What I mean by that is that the expectations are the same every year. How we go about it is different, there'll be different challenges, be different personnel, there'll be things we've got to add to our game, take away from our game.

"[But] winning the grand final, winning every game and every year being our year; we're here for sustained success.

The expectation from external noise is that we're not underdogs [in 2024], teams are going to come after us [thinking] 'they'll fall over'. Even better, let them come, because we've got to go after it and enjoy the challenge.

Andrew Webster

"If we're going to be serious then we have to learn to handle it."

While this pre-season in Auckland has had a different feel to it – with Webster acknowledging the squad had an "edge to them" last year due to having a point to prove to themselves – it's also been smoother due to most of the playing group now having a much better understanding of the system and their role in it. 

Absolute scenes in Auckland as Warriors take the field

That point has prop Addin Fonua-Blake excited about what they can achieve this season, believing it can only help their cause. 

"It feels a lot more upbeat [this year]. Last year was a new system and there were a few question marks early... but everyone brought in and the results spoke for themselves," he said. 

"Seeing how far we went last year under a new system, in only four or five months work prior to the season... it's going to be pretty exciting to see what we can do.

"Everyone knows it's not going to just happen again this year... teams are going to take us a bit more seriously."

Meanwhile the Tongan international confirmed he has no plans to ask the club for permission to spend more time in Sydney following away games this year, despite the circumstances there which caused him to request a release from the remainder of his Warriors contract on compassionate grounds. 

The 28-year-old will join the Sharks at the end of this season on a four-year deal

Addin Fonua-Blake during pre-season training.
Addin Fonua-Blake during pre-season training. ©Bodie Friend/

"This year I just want to put all my time and effort into this team," he said. 

"If there's things that happen that need me to be over there then maybe I'll ask for a bit of extra time, but it won't be every time we go there.

"I'm fully aware that this is a job, I am going over there for a job, not to visit family and stuff like that.

"I have got a lot to give to this club and I owe the club a lot. That's the whole reason this year is going to be a big year."

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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