The Warriors can’t afford a slip up against the Eels

Jeremy Brown Roar Pro

By Jeremy Brown, Jeremy Brown is a Roar Pro

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11 Have your say

    Reports are filtering in of a spectacular crash in Penrose, Auckland, where a huge bandwagon has slammed into the harsh brick wall of reality.

    There are numerous casualties, mostly in Warriors apparel, clutching what appears to be broken hearts and ruptured faith muscles.

    OK, so that scenario might be a stretch, but the Warriors’ game against Parramatta is an important test for their season – which feels like an unusual way to describe a match between the third and last placed teams.

    This is a game the Warriors should and – to ensure they don’t lose momentum by suffering a third loss in four games – must win.

    The Kiwis have surpassed the expectations of even the most optimistic fans. Nobody picked them to be 5-0 – not the players, not their mothers, not even that guy still wearing his 1995 jersey like it’s a trophy of war.

    I even saw Stephen Kearney smile after the staunch win against the Dragons – admittedly I had to rewind and pause the image several times, but I can confirm it was a smile-like crease of some description in the middle of his face.

    There has been plenty to like about the Warriors this year. The contribution of the new signings and trainer Alex Corvo has been well documented, as has the attitude across the park.

    While Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Scheck might be wearing the flashy dancing shoes, the forwards have steel-cap boots and are stomping all over opposition packs.

    This was exactly what New Zealand rugby league needed, because after an abysmal NRL and international year, the game was on life support.

    It turned out the key was not the we; but winning.

    The Warriors have been rewarded with great crowds at Mt Smart and much debate about real fans and bandwagons.

    Then the Warriors met a spluttering Melbourne side, still adjusting to the departure of one of the most consistent halves in the game: Cooper Cronk. They seemed to be coping; the Warriors’ much-vaunted defensive steel haemorrhaged 50 points. Ouch.

    But plenty of good teams have been destroyed by Melbourne, and the Warriors had a short turn-around after a herculean defensive effort against the Dragons. They looked tired early, so the result wasn’t entirely surprising, but still painful to watch.

    Even more painful was listening to Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach’s commentary. He makes no effort to hide dislike for the Warriors. With the score mounting, the Kiwis entered their familiar huddle, prompting Roach to gleefully cry, ‘They’re still doing it, they’re doing the breathing!”

    To be fair to Blocker, he’s a relic of a bygone era, and he didn’t earn that moniker for his stimulating conversation or quick thinking. Team huddles must be a concept as foreign to him as unbiased commentary or fair play in cricket.

    A much better performance against the in-form Tigers was book-ended by another thrashing, this time 32-0 at the hands of Cooper Cronk’s new mob, the Roosters. More ouch.

    Cooper Cronk

    Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

    The Warriors now face a Paramatta side who have won just two games in 2018. The Eels have been dreadful.

    But Parra will be desperate and demonstrated during last year’s run to the finals, where they finished fourth, that they can perform under pressure. Which is not really surprising. This is a club so often in crisis and so accustomed to disaster that they travel with a week’s supply of food, a dozen lawyers, and Bear Grylls.

    Combine that with a Warriors side that has conceded 82 points in just two of their last three games and have injuries to key players, and this could be a tricky challenge for the boys from Auckland.

    If the Warriors don’t show up to play, they could pay a heavy price.

    They won’t want to suffer a third loss in four matches, and particularly not to the last placed team. It could potentially undo much of the good work and hard-earned confidence and support.

    Top-four sides consistently find a way to win. If the Warriors have genuine finals aspirations, they need to win these games, – the games against the under-performers, the also-rans.

    Despite being genuinely excited about the Warriors’ performances this year, I have been trying hard to manage my expectations. I haven’t been very successful. And it seems some scars take time to heal.

    My heart is telling me the Warriors will win convincingly, my head picked the Eels in the work competition. And I wasn’t the only one.

    It’s a timely reminder: the key is winning.

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    The Crowd Says (11)

    • May 18th 2018 @ 6:21am
      Papa T said | May 18th 2018 @ 6:21am | ! Report

      A bit like how NSW fans will feel this year if they win game 1. With RTS now out and joining Johnson and possibly Lino and Luke on the sidelines it will be very much unlike the old Warriors to win a game like this in Sydney, even if Parra is last. A litmus test for the new Warriors for sure.

    • May 18th 2018 @ 7:46am
      Paul said | May 18th 2018 @ 7:46am | ! Report

      I gather Lino and Luke are both playing, so the Warriors, if they play the sort of football they did for the first 5 rounds, should win this game pretty comfortably. If they play 2017 style Warriors football, they’ll get another hiding.

      • Roar Pro

        May 18th 2018 @ 8:23am
        Jeremy Brown said | May 18th 2018 @ 8:23am | ! Report

        They were named to play, but both have been carrying injuries. Lino has performed well this year when called on and Luke is playing the best he has in a Warriors jersey. But I agree, If they are fit the Warriors should win.

        • May 18th 2018 @ 9:18am
          Stu said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:18am | ! Report

          Lino played a supporting role well against the Roosters and Dragons but has been found out on both sides of the ball in losses over Storm and Roosters. He needs to improve if the warriors are to get up over the Eels.

      • May 18th 2018 @ 10:24am
        Aem said | May 18th 2018 @ 10:24am | ! Report

        Even if both are playing, this may be anything but comfortable. It really can’t be overstated how bad a blow the RTS loss is – one of the Warriors forums runs a progressive player of the year vote… RTS isn’t just 1st, he has more than twice the number of points than the guy in 2nd. Lino is a fine replacement-grade half, but he’s a big, big step down from a fit Johnson. If the Warriors could ever get a not very-injured squad together they’d be interesting.

        A big issue has been the pack – badly beaten in both the Storm and Roosters game, they need to step up. Blair is a flat track bully (though we’ve known that for years), Paasi and Afoa seem to have stepped up but are alternating good games with average ones, Gavet has disappeared so far in ’18 and Simon Mannering looks like a guy who has played one year too many. The enforced loss of Lisone is a positive for the Warriors, though – he’s very Blair-like but without actually being a decent defender, and his replacement Satae brings a hard edge. Plus if Luke is back he helps paper over some deficiencies in the pack with his go-forward.

        The other issue is the centres… they can’t defend. Hiku drops off tackles constantly, and Kata has been in first grade for years without ever understanding how to defend the edge. Consistently makes bad decisions and puts himself (and his winger or inside defender) in terrible positions.

        • Roar Pro

          May 18th 2018 @ 11:40am
          Jeremy Brown said | May 18th 2018 @ 11:40am | ! Report

          Great response, I would love to know more about the Warriors forum.

          I agree with pretty much all you have said – Lino, Paasi and Afoa are still learning their trade. Wayne Bennett said many players take 100 games to understand the demands of the game and become consistent performers. Some kick on, some don’t.

          Hiku’s defence is a real concern, which I expect is causing head aches for the coaching team; offensively, that right side has been as good as any in the comp. I was surprised they have named him as back up in the halves, haven’t seen much of him in that role and assumed they might push him back to fullback. But can’t argue with Fusitua taking that role, he is class.

    • May 18th 2018 @ 9:06am
      Jacko said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:06am | ! Report

      Jeremy I gather the Warriors are your team?????? Why did you pick the Eels in the office comp?

      • Roar Pro

        May 18th 2018 @ 10:15am
        Jeremy Brown said | May 18th 2018 @ 10:15am | ! Report

        They are Jacko, and have been since they started. I picked the Eels mostly for emotionally insurance. If the Warriors lose, at least I’ll get a point in the tipping comp, so not a complete loss. If they win, I’ll still be stoked they got up despite dropping a point.

        I think that makes sense. But it might help explain why my picks have been mud this year.

    • May 18th 2018 @ 10:53am
      bazza said | May 18th 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

      Go parra

    • Roar Rookie

      May 18th 2018 @ 11:11am
      Joe said | May 18th 2018 @ 11:11am | ! Report

      I backed the Warriors to get into the 8 this year when most were picking them for wooden spoon. This game however I backed the Eels because the Warriors without two members of their spine are a big step down. The two big thrashings apart from the short turnaround to the Storm game they were missing Johnson and Luke. Luke played the Storm but got injured early. This week not Roger and Shaun against an Eels side that although at the bottom of the table are still a very good side. Lino should be better with Isaac Luke back but I suspect both will be playing injured. Even if they lose this one I don’t think they’ll miss the eight. They will jag a few more wins when they get the full spine back especially in Origin period coming up.

    • May 18th 2018 @ 4:39pm
      Spectator said | May 18th 2018 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

      Blake Greene to have a big game. They’ve shut him out of Origin discussion. Might be time to make a point. He’s got to get busier.

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