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Win over Knights 'important' for Warriors

Newshub logoNewshub 2/08/2017
Stephen Kearney said the team has made some 'real progress' this season. © Photosport Stephen Kearney said the team has made some 'real progress' this season. Warriors boss Stephen Kearney admits an NRL victory over Newcastle this weekend would be important for the club from a cultural perspective, as their finals hopes dangle by a thread.

Only a flawless run home - and fortunate results elsewhere - will see the Kearney-coached Warriors play finals football for the first time since 2011.

That run of five matches starts on Saturday against the hapless Knights, who look likely to finish last on the NRL ladder for the third straight season despite last week's impressive 21-14 win over St George.

Nevertheless, Kearney told reporters his 11th-placed side couldn't afford to take Newcastle lightly or let standards slip.

Two points in the bag would remind the Warriors' fans and backers that the Auckland-based club haven't given up the ghost.

"It's important from a culture sense. We're absolutely not throwing in the towel at the minute, we've got a lot to play for - to make sure we uphold a standard we've set ourselves this year," Kearney said.

"I know it's hard to see it from a ladder perspective and scoreline perspective from week to week, but we've made some real progress in certain areas and the boys don't want to let that slip."

The Warriors are down to their bare bones in the back row for this weekend's Hunter trip, with injured second-row duo Ryan Hoffman and Bodene Thompson unlikely to play NRL football again in 2017.

Thompson injured a pectoral muscle in last week's loss to Cronulla in Auckland, and will undergo further medical tests this week.

James Gavet is also out for the season with a broken arm, while Albert Vete and star playmaker Shaun Johnson are in a race against time.

Teenage reserve-grade regular Isaiah Papali'i will slot in for Thompson, partnering a similarly youthful Bunty Afoa in the back row.

Kearney said veteran lock and vice-captain Simon Mannering may occasionally need to step in and help the pair.

"He's been man-of-the-match in reserve grade, in and around the matchday XXI most weeks. We realise he's got a great deal of potential, it's just about making sure we give him an opportunity," Kearney said of the 18-year-old.

"We're pretty lucky we've got a guy in Simon that can play a few positions."

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