Kearney unimpressed by Warriors at nines

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney is unimpressed by what he saw of his new team at the Auckland Nines and is demanding better from two NRL trial matches.

The nines might be regarded by some teams as an inconvenient early-season hit-out in which emerging injury-free is the first priority.

That wasn’t the attitude of Kearney, who criticised his players for ignoring the basics on the way to three losses.

“It was a little bit disappointing for us and I made the boys fairly aware of that,” Kearney said.

“We worked pretty hard all pre-season to attack a certain way and defend a certain way. It didn’t look like how we’d spent 15 weeks of pre-season.

“We weren’t quite as far ahead as I thought we were. It was a real eye-opener for me.”

Kearney is demanding better in trial matches against the Melbourne Storm on the Sunshine Coast on Saturday and against Gold Coast in Palmerston North eight days later.

He is most keenly watching the performance of promising front-rowers Bunty Afoa and Toafofoa Sipley.

With Ben Matulino to miss the opening rounds with a knee injury and fellow-veteran prop Jacob Lillyman still favouring a hamstring niggle, the young pair will need to improve on their nines efforts at Eden Park, Kearney said.

“It’s important to get some quality time out there on the back of a disappointing nines that those two, in particular, had. I was expecting a bit more.”

Playmaker Shaun Johnson is fit to face the Storm after sitting out the nines with a groin strain.

Kearney hit back at suggestions he had asked Johnson not to play the nines to keep his key asset in cotton wool.

“Players know their bodies the best. Shaun felt he wasn’t 100 per cent.”

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