New Warriors coach Andrew Webster has arrived in Auckland with an open mind when it comes to the game plan his side will employ in 2023, but is already clear on the role he wants a couple of his key men and off-season recruits to play.
Short of a major change in circumstances, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad will be the first-choice fullback, fellow new signing Dylan Walker will play the same role he did at Manly last season as a middle forward off the bench, while Tohu Harris will continue to be heavily involved in the playmaking department.
After Shaun Johnson was paired with six different starting halves partners in 2022, Te Maire Martin is set to get first shot in the No.6 jersey, while Webster said Jazz Tevaga will have a place in the pack too, despite the presence of Walker who he plays a similar style to in the middle of the park.
“I think it’s the best use of Tohu, I think you’ve got to have his hands on the ball as often as possible,” Webster told NRL.com.
“He can do both, he can look like he’s about to pass and then run, or look like he’s about to run and then pass.
I think when you’ve got a guy like Addin Fonua-Blake running off Tohu, that’s pretty exciting.
“Dylan is going to play that No.14 role and Jazz, if he is playing well and is fit and healthy and playing to his potential, will just be playing like an extra middle forward… if he continues to do that there’s no way he won’t be in the team.
“Both can play, it’s fine. Everyone traditionally looks at it like you need a big guy, this type of player, that type of player, but at the end of the day we just need to put the best 17 on the field each week.
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“Charnze, it’s his spot to lose. Someone is going to have to take it off him or Charnze is going to have to play poorly, and I don’t see that happening. Charnze was definitely signed to be our No.1.”
Having previously worked as an assistant coach at the Warriors between 2015 and 2016 – under then head coach Andrew McFadden who is now back with the club as the general manager of recruitment, development, and pathways – Webster said he’s been able to hit the ground running thanks to his existing knowledge of the club.
While he moves to Auckland after helping the Panthers win back-to-back Premierships over the past two seasons as an assistant to Ivan Cleary, Webster isn’t looking to replicate what worked at Penrith.
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“That’s the biggest mistake you can make, if there’s a particular style you love,” he said.
“I think the thing for us about our style of play is that it’s going to be whatever suits this group of players, rather than what suits the coaching staff.
“At the moment we are just working hard on what wins games of football, and that’s your fundamentals and your platform, so that your skill can allow you to play the style you want to.”