Jones backs Warriors to win NRL decider
Warriors icon Stacey Jones is backing the class of 2011 to pull off the biggest win in the NRL club’s 17-year history.
WARRIORS icon Stacey Jones is backing the class of 2011 to pull off the biggest win in the NRL club’s 17-year history.
Dubbed the ‘Little General’, the star halfback was skipper in the Warriors’ only previous grand final appearance, scoring a brilliant individual try in a 30-8 loss to the Sydney Roosters in 2002.
“Without a doubt” was his reply when asked if the present squad can go one better against Manly in Sydney on Sunday.
Jones, who will be among the thousands of New Zealand fans flying over for the decider at a sold-out ANZ Stadium, is loathe to compare the club’s two grand final sides, saying the game is played at a far greater intensity today.
But he can’t see any real weakness as he scans a team sheet unchanged after the gripping preliminary final victory over Melbourne.
“Everyone in every position played out of their skins on Saturday night,” he said.
“There’s a lot of experience in the team, yet the age of them is very young.
“Their forwards are maybe a little bit younger than the Manly forwards. When it comes to digging deep late in the game, they could have that on their side.”
Jones likes the way the halves pairing of rookie Shaun Johnson and James Maloney are combining after less than four months together.
He’s impressed by how the highly-talented Johnson – the incumbent in the No.7 jersey that Jones made his own in a club record 261 appearances – is avoiding overplaying his hand while still making a big impact.
Along with most of their teammates, Johnson and Maloney will be appearing in their first premiership decider when they run out at ANZ Stadium.
Jones doesn’t think they’ll be fazed by the occasion, and the pair batted away suggestions that Manly’s greater grand final experience will give the home side a significant advantage on Sunday.
Despite the brevity of his 15-match career, Johnson is confident there won’t be any stage fright when the curtain goes up.
“They’ve won a grand final and that, but we have confidence in our ability,” he said.
“We’ll keep our heads down and keep working hard as soon as we take the training field and prepare the best we can.”
Only three of the Warriors’ 17 have reached the season finale before – Lance Hohaia in the Warriors’ 2002 appearance and former Parramatta Eels, Feleti Mateo and Krisnan Inu.
Manly, who have made it three times in the past five years, have 10 players who have experienced the big occasion and its build-up.
Maloney, who has been one of the form five-eighths of this year’s competition, also doesn’t expect the difference in experience to be a deciding factor in the clash.
“It’s all about how you approach the game,” he said.
“I’m looking at it as a another game of football. It’s on a big stage, but we’ve played the last couple of finals matches fine, so I don’t think it’s going to make any difference to us.”