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Kemp pleased with baby Warriors

By By Dale Budge

Published: 3:14PM Monday August 30, 2004 Source: ONE Sport

Whilst the New Zealand Warriors cop it from everywhere after one of the most dismal season's in the club's history, there may well be a positive to come out of the 2004 disaster.

The likes of Ali Lauiti'iti, Daniel Anderson, Mark Tookey, Justin Murphy, Paul Dezolt, Henry Fa'afili, Marcus Perenara, Danny Sullivan, Matt Jobson, Vince Mellars and Jerry Seuseu have been and gone during the season, but new coach Tony Kemp has been able to blood a number of youngsters into first grade football - which must put them in good stead for 2005.

Two more Warriors made their first grade debuts in Sunday's gutsy loss to the NRL-leading Sydney Roosters.

Prop Kane Ferris and outside back Paul Atkins had brief but impressive efforts off the bench.

"I think once again the young kids that stepped up today - Kane Ferris, Cooper Vuna scored a try and the bloke who needs to learn how to side-step [referring to Atkins] were again outstanding," coach Tony Kemp said.

Atkins came on midway through the second spell and was subsequently smashed in two massive tackles from Roosters enforcer Adrian Morley with his first two touches.

The lightweight winger or fullback made the mistake of carting the ball straight up at one of the hardest hitters in the NRL but got straight to his feet on both occasions to his credit.

"Kids come out of the Bartercard Cup and the one thing I know they have in abundance is courage," Kemp said.

"He has got the courage of a lionheart. I knew he has been one of the toughest kids I have been watching for two years so he obviously relished his opportunity but he left his step on the bench."

Despite getting hammered, Atkins' first touches lifted the rest of the Warriors side as they watched a young kid come out into the fray. The intensity on defence immediately picked up and Awen Guttenbeil evened the score with a thumping shot on Roosters prop Ned Catic. The veteran second rower produced one of his best games of the season and flew at Catic before knocking him flat on his back.

As tempers began to flare, referee Steve Lyons penalised him for being offside but the effect of the tackle made its impact.

"He definitely gave the players a lift when he went on,' Kemp said. "They took one look at him - the kid's only 80kgs - and he didn't take a backward step. This is what we are trying to build."

With Jerome Ropati producing another top performance in the foreign position of fullback and another solid effort from Evarn Tuimavave, Epalahame Lauaki, Vuna and Louis Anderson, Kemp will have plenty of raw talent to build around next season.

"I am looking forward to working with them and hopefully turning them into decent first grade footballers."

"Character building is one thing but when you look at the bigger picture come kick-off next year the side is going to be much better for it."

The former Kiwi singled out Ropati for special praise.

"Outstanding. He is a class act, I can't speak highly enough of him. I just threw him in at the fullback spot and he has just stepped up to the plate again. I could throw him in the front row next week and he would take the ball forward for 200 metres."

With one game to go before this current nightmare is over, focus will quickly switch to a vitally important off-season and with the arrival of Steve Price, Ruben Wiki and Nathan Fien along with the development of these youngsters, the foundations are there for a very promising future.