Mannering ready for first start, says Kearney
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney is confident Simon Mannering is ready to step up to start a game.
The veteran player began the two recent NRL games against the Cowboys and Broncos on the sidelines as he made his way back from a shoulder injury.
But with second rower Leivaha Pulu out for a while with a foot injury, the 32-year-old Mannering is set to start his first game of the season, in Friday night’s blockbuster against the undefeated Dragons at Mt Smart Stadium.
Kearney says he has no concerns about Mannering’s match fitness going into the game.
‘‘Absolutely, he just needed a bit of time to get used to the rigours of the competition again,’’ he said.
‘‘He had 60-odd minutes last week and 50-odd the week before. Coupled with 280 NRL games, I’m sure that’s enough.’’
The Warriors picked up two injuries in last weekend’s 27-18 loss to the Broncos and Kearney says it’s mixed news on Pulu and centre Solomone Kata.
‘‘Leivaha is going to be missing a few weeks,’’ he said. ‘‘He’s got a bit of an issue on the top of his foot, so he’ll be missing a bit of time.’’
After last Saturday’s loss to the Broncos, Kearney lamented that his side wasn’t able to match Wayne Bennett’s team’s physicality and mental approach.
Talent-wise, the Warriors have shown they can match it with anyone this season, but the team learnt a big lesson last weekend about fronting up for every game.
‘‘It’s been a big month for the group and we weren’t off by too much,’’ Kearney said.
‘‘But the opposition turned up and it was well documented that it was a testing week for them.
‘‘So they came here with a real determination and attitude and when we’re off and have a few players who aren’t quite matching them, then it makes for a really tough day at the office.
‘‘I was pleased we tried to scramble ourselves back into contention and it was 15-14 at halftime, but they had a little too much energy for us.’’
Kearney rarely talks in detail about his coaching methods or any mistakes he may have made in the past. But yesterday he gave an insight as to how he’s changed as a coach this season and realised he didn’t need to be as hands-on.
‘‘Last year, I probably tried to fix everything myself,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ve got some pretty handy people here.
‘‘So we’ve given them some ownership in those areas. There is probably a bit more collaborating, in terms of working as a whole football department. That’s been a major shift.’’