Right now the Warriors are the gentlemen in league, holding the door open for NRL’s return.
Late last year, they adopted the bushfire-ravaged town of Tenterfield in northern New South Wales. Their incredible display of support towards Peter Allen’s hometown was demonstrated through business mentoring, player visits and community and charity events.
It seemed fitting when Tamworth returned the favour and welcomed the Warriors with open arms.
For a season return that had border, bio-security and draw contingencies, fans collectively breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced that Project Apollo would indeed lift off.
Warriors, I thank you profusely for your efforts.
However, The Warriors have accomplished another feat by making it acceptable to follow another team in the NRL.
Supporting a second team in the NRL does not diminish or come at a cost to the investment you place in the primary team through membership, attending and watching matches or buying merchandise. The second team does not take the place of the first, nor does it act as a fallback option.
Why then, is there harm in sharing the love?
I am a Western Suburbs-raised, Manly-barracking fan. And I do travel.
Following the Maroon and White Silvertails has been tumultuous ride at times, but the forecast for Des Hasler’s 2020 season looks fine and sunny to me.
You see, I want Manly to top the premiership ladder and to see the Turbo brothers charge towards their best season yet. Daly Cherry-Evans has been primed in his captaincy role both during the regular season and throughout the Origin and Kangaroos Test series. Addin Fonua-Blake and Martin Taupau are a formidable front row.
Following the team because of past glory years or future success is relevant, however, as a fanatic what matters to me right now is the weekend game.
How then could I support the Warriors, as they will inevitably play against us?
My answer is that they play for us. They are already on our team.
In my junior touch football years, you would get nights where not enough players would turn up and one side would be forced to forfeit.
In the spirit of the game, players from the other side would volunteer to fill empty spots rather than walk away with an easy win.
Eventually you would face these same players later in the draw, and their competitiveness was not toned down simply because they ran alongside you or clapped you on the back for scoring a try.
They knew that without matches there is no competition, and without a competition there are no teams to play.
Without the Warriors sacrifice, there would be no NRL competition as we know it. Or at least, it would be a modified competition that would not be the same without the Kiwis.
As someone who sat on the winning side of the fence during the 2011 grand final, I cannot share the grief of a near win.
When Ruben Wiki was the first New Zealander to reach 300 first grade NRL games in 2008, I was likely watching the Prince of Brookvale shoot down the field in the Number 1 jersey.
My coin has gone towards a full season membership, jerseys and other clothing paraphernalia and when I see a Manly/Parramatta derby at Bankwest Stadium I am probably more out of place than a random Souths fan.
Basing a team allegiance on membership, match attendance, television viewing and the amount of money spent of the merchandise is simplified at best.
Copping abuse from other fans and having the media put your team under the microscope about the culture of the club plays a part as well. Paul Gallen could tell you.
Above all, there is a faith that, despite the trials and tribulations that may befall your team, be they a slew of injuries, salary cap sanctions or coach disagreements, you are on the right course.
Forget what the bookies say, your team can and will rise against anything.
The Warriors have risen above the painful separation of their families as well as odds that predict against another premiership season. Injuries plaguing Bunty Afoa and Leeson Ah Mau, as well as prised defender Jazz Tevaga do not instil much confidence. Wayde Egan is a solid buy from Penrith, but he has only had two rounds to see how he fits in with the dynamic of his new team.
They are away from their usual turf, and have been on the road and in a quarantine hub longer than most players. 2020 has its underdog story.
“But, you weren’t there at the beginning!”
True believers would be right to argue this. Toddling around during the 1995 inception season, I do not remember the first Warriors match that took place.
From day one, there were undoubtedly supporters across the ditch who were finally given a national team outside of the other rugby code. Their unbroken fidelity despite being one of two teams to never win a premiership speaks volumes.
However, if we were to discount fans based purely on where they were when the team first entered the league, then the Roosters and Rabbitohs should exclude most of their base.
Some fans praise the accomplishments of individual players, without foregoing their main cause. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck made a seamless transition from winger at the Roosters to a decorated, Dally M and Golden Boot fullback.
His return to the New Zealand arena in the Test series last year led to the side’s win over Great Britain.
Regardless, players come and go, but teams remain the same. Jerry Seinfeld once joked about not supporting the team, but the jerseys themselves.
Warriors, I will be supporting your team this year. Not because I want to hedge my bets or cushion the pain when Manly loses a match. Ultimately, we shall meet again in Round 13.
Thank you for the chance to play, and may the best team win.