The Warriors’ NRL season may be moving in the right direction, but they know Canterbury will provide their real measuring stick.
The Warriors take on the table-topping Bulldogs in Hamilton on Sunday with more confidence after morale-boosting victories over the Storm and the Raiders.
Those wins helped convince the Warriors to appoint acting coach Andrew McFadden as head coach through to 2017, and he now faces the team who denied him victory in his first match in charge with a late comeback in round six.
“We’ve built up some momentum, but there’s no bigger challenge than the Bulldogs this weekend,” McFadden said.
“I think it’s a really timely test for us. We need something like this to take us to another level. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’ve got full confidence in our guys. I know they can do a job.”
The Warriors coughed up an eight-point lead with 12 minutes to go to lose 21-20 against Canterbury in round six at Eden Park, but should have gained enough confidence from that effort to know they can foot it this time.
Among those to stand out that day was Ben Matulino, whose efforts in the second row before being injured have led McFadden to use him in that position rather than prop.
Matulino made inroads into the Bulldogs’ defence in the previous game with some offloads, but he’s also added another string to his bow – being on the field for the full game, which he managed against the Raiders last week.
“It’s my first 80 minutes since I was 12 so I’m pretty stoked, yeah,” he said.
“Playing back row’s a lot different to playing in the middle, and there’s probably two front rowers who could probably go 80 minutes in the middle, but I’m pretty happy to get through the game without coming off.”
Matulino has no doubt he and the rest of the Warriors pack hold the key to his team’s chances of beating the big and impressive Bulldogs forwards.
“There’s no secret, you have to stop their forward pack. It’s their main strike weapon. If you stop them we have a good chance of winning. The likes of big Sam Kas(iano) and James Graham, they get their boys going forward so it’s up to us to stop them.”