Coach Stephen Kearney admits the NRL proper begins this week for his Warriors, without as much emotion driving them on and against opponents with greater defensive ferocity than the Dragons.
Kearney says Friday’s clash with Penrith in Campbelltown will provide a true gauge of his team, who are eager to show their 18-0 whitewash of St George Illawarra was no flash in the pan.
After a month away from loved ones in Auckland, the Kiwi side produced one of their more exceptional performances in Gosford.
Videos of support from family and competition-wide goodwill at their sacrifice dominated the buildup but Kearney was unfussed that those intangibles aren’t part of this week’s preparations.
“There’s no doubt about the effect last week those things potentially had on the group,” Kearney said.
“But what stood out for me was that regardless of the goodwill out there in the community for the team, we still had to go out there and perform. And we did.
“All they did was execute their roles and this week it doesn’t change.”
Kearney will prepare his team for a vastly tougher Panthers defence than the Dragons could muster in Gosford.
With little sting in the hits from the winless Red V, the Warriors were able to complete a competition-record 45 from 47 sets.
“(Penrith) defend with a lot more aggression. They come forward on you a lot more as opposed to the Dragons, they’re probably not as aggressive,” Kearney said.
“They’ve got real strike with (Viliame) Kikau out on that left edge and two young halves (Jarome Luai and Matt Burton) who have got a great deal of talent.”
Kearney revealed injury issues had continued to dog the Warriors’ middle forwards this week.
Lachlan Burr failed an HIA progression test, ruling him out for a second game, while Jazz Tevaga added a leg muscle problem to his knee complaint, potentially delaying his return.
Sydney Roosters loan prop Poasa Faamausili will come off the bench and Kearney said the 24-year-old had impressed his new teammates all week, beginning with a song initiation when he joined training on Monday.
“And you can see he’s come from a great system at the Roosters, all the detail around his football,” Kearney said.