The Roar
The Roar

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Warriors fans have reason to be cautiously excited

The Warriors' Shaun Johnson, when he was the Warriors' Shaun Johnson. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
Roar Pro
24th March, 2018
20

I promised myself I wouldn’t take them back; they’ll only hurt you again.

After so much pain, heartache, tears, jeers and lonely beers they had the nerve to tell me to ‘keep the faith’. Friends said I was crazy, family didn’t understand.

Workmates were the worst, they laughed at me. My mates understood, of course. They could see it in my eyes, as I could in theirs.

When the familiar pre-NRL season excitement started to build, I suppressed it as best I could. Surely, I have too much self-respect to get sucked in by the Warriors again?

It turns out that I don’t. Because I don’t know if you’ve heard, but this is our year.

I know we’re only three games into the season and it looks like the teams we played may have a long year ahead. I also acknowledge my love is really cheap and I get far too excited for my own good.

But Warriors’ fans haven’t had much to cheer about of late, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is excited. Why wouldn’t we be?

Last year we finished the season on a nine-match losing streak. It was painful, dreadful stuff to watch. The much-hyped all-Kiwi spine fired less shots than the English cricketers at Eden park on Thursday (58! Ha!).

The Warriors, known for their flair and unpredictability, sadly packed the offloads away for the winter and focused on ‘the grind’.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Kearney was trying to turn the Warriors into Melbourne. They just didn’t have the personnel, the culture, or the money to buy either one. But then who does; apparently not even Melbourne sometimes.

The players looked tired, flat. Issac Luke looked something that sounds like flat. They struggled. Even by the Warriors standards, they struggled.

Then the cruel twist of the knife for New Zealand league fans, that final slipper to the kidneys while we were curled in a ball, thumb in mouth: “The key is the we.”

David Kidwell, what were you thinking? Half the Kiwi squad eloped to Tonga, which in hindsight seemed a smart decision as we were promptly rolled by Samoa and lost a soccer match to Fiji.

It almost broke me. If I’m being honest, for a while I feel out of love with the game, such was my frustration.

So, it was with a little trepidation I greeted the new NRL season. There was no mention of the Warriors hopes, predictions centred around when Kearney would be axed as coach.

Then we beat Souths in Perth. We hadn’t won in Perth in nine attempts and in one game we broke two unwanted streaks. The Warriors looked good too. Really good.

Shaun Johnson

(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Advertisement
Advertisement

Then they repeated the effort against the Titans.

The offloads are back, Johnson is stepping, Luke looks lean, mean and is running well. Most impressive is the scrambling defence, which showed real heart.

The improved defensive effort has been without Simon Mannering’s 40 tackles either. Instead Tohu Harris stepped up, offering a similar work rate, but bigger body and more options on attack.

Roger Tuivasa-Scheck looks more comfortable as captain, has been class under the high ball and has made a number of try-saving, if not match-saving tackles.

Tuivasa-Scheck is best known for his fast feet and prodigious metres. I think he would accept defensive desperation is not something he has really shown Warriors’ fans while at the club. It’s great to see him playing with confidence.

It’s great to see them all playing with confidence.

Blake Green is the glue. His calm control is the foil to Johnson’s running game. He looks the Warriors player I hoped Kieran Foran would be.

Any lingering pangs of guilt I felt while secretly watching the first two Warriors games are gone after the performance against Canberra.

Advertisement
Advertisement

The Warriors were immense. They looked good with ball in hand, and the scrambling defence was excellent; especially considering they conceded four penalties in five minutes followed by Adam Blair rightly being binned for a cheap shot on Aidan Sezer.

Trailing by seven with four minutes to play. This is usually when the Warriors choke, the opposition score, possibly twice, blow out the numbers and fans are left with weak excuses about the officiating.

Instead; the Warriors rallied, Luke scored next to the posts and Johnson calmly potted not one, but two drop goals to steal victory, leaving the whinging to Canberra coach, Ricky ‘Sticky’ Stuart.

‘Sticky’ was a great player who I loved watching, but as a coach makes Donald Trump look gracious. His post-match comments bristled with aggression and predictably deflected responsibility for the loss to the officials.

“We were the best team. The best team on the day, and we got beaten… things just aren’t going our way.”

Sorry Sticky, you weren’t the best team.

You might feel a bit salty about an obstruction call in the second half, but the Raiders had an extra man for ten minutes, five consecutive penalties, plenty of the 50/50 calls and were leading by seven with four minutes to play. The best teams close those matches out.

Game after game, year after year, it is the official’s fault. Perhaps you could take a look at the way the Warriors dealt with tough calls during the game.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Ben Matulino of the Warriors

(AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

Wow, I never thought I would ever get to say that.

The players and coach have little to say about their best ever season start; ‘there is a long way to go’. They are right. A successful season isn’t won or lost in the first three weeks. Playing well is nice but winning at the end of the year is what matters.

If the Warriors make the top eight they will have surpassed most pundit’s predictions. Unlike the players, I can’t control my emotions and against my own advice, I am not just hopeful for the season ahead, but genuinely excited.

I’m even going to say it. Yes, I am. Let’s gone Warriors!