It didn't take the Raging Bull, Jacob Lillyman long to make an impact upon his return to the NRL last night. Coming on late in the first half, Lillyman smashed into the Brisbane defensive line a couple of times before scoring just before half-time as the Warriors went to the break 24-10 ahead.
Lillyman really put a sting into the Warriors. But there was another hero, as Stuff reports:
Warriors players have lauded the courage of "inspirational" team-mate Nathan Friend after it emerged the "tough as nails" hooker refused to come off during his side's 30-20 win over the Brisbane Broncos despite suffering from a suspected broken jaw.Off-season signing Friend appeared to break his jaw early in the gritty contest at Mt Smart Stadium and despite a mouth full of blood, stubbornly insisted on staying out in the middle.He was taken to hospital immediately after the match for x-rays but there's no doubting his courage did wonders to inspire the Warriors as they charged to an unlikely victory against a team that was gunning for its seventh straight win."You can't look any further for inspiration than Friendy," utility Lewis Brown said."That just shows what type of bloke he is and how he didn't want to let the team down. He had the option to come off at half-time but he refused and went back on."Man, he just kept hitting it up all night and he's someone we all look up to. He is as tough as nails and if it is a broken jaw, he's going to be sorely missed in the next few weeks."One club official said a debate about whether to pull Friend from the field had taken place on the sideline but admitted he had steadfastly refused to budge, reportedly saying: "I'm going to be out for up to six weeks so the last thing I want to do is come off now".It was unclear on Saturday night how long he would be sidelined for.Warriors captain Simon Mannering, meanwhile, described Friend's actions as "massive" and said he couldn't believe his team-mate had continued to run into the line with gusto despite having sustained a brutal injury."Throughout most of the first half, he had a lot of blood in his mouth and I think after one of the tries we scored, someone mentioned it," Mannering said."He wasn't saying anything. He just kept his head down and tackled his butt off.
Nathan Friend has copped a bit of criticism in the Warriors' below-par start to the season. But he had a massive game last night, despite playing with a pretty significant injury.
The Broncos had enough possession on attack that they should have beaten the Warriors last night. Even though they conceded four tries, the Warriors; defence was a huge improvement on previous weeks. Konrad Hurrell and Ben Henry are starting to gel as a centre pairing, Simon Mainwaring had a huge game, and Shaun Johnson's kicking in the first half was pinpoint accurate, leading to two tries.
We reckon that this match could be the turning point in the Warriors' season, just as the Anzac Day win at Melbourne was last season. They face the Sydney Roosters next week at home, and after an awful performance against the Roosters in Sydney early in the season, they will be keen to secure back-to-back wins. With Lillyman back, and Michael Luck and Sam Rapira not far away, Bluey McLennan is getting close to having a first-choice squad available.