There’s probably not a more popular Australian in New Zealand right now than Andrew Webster and deservedly so.
Usually at this time of year, Warriors fans are choosing a ‘second team’ to support during finals while the club picks at the bones of another year of underachievement. We are torn between loving watching great footy and knowing that our team isn’t involved. Again.
This year under Webster there is a growing crackle of excitement that the Warriors will not only feature in the finals, but have a decent shot at buckling some of the big boys. Penrith and the Broncos have set the bar.
Even if the Warriors fall short it has already been a successful year for the club; one that has earned praise from commentators, coaches and footy fans from around the NRL.
Webster has worked wonders with the Warriors in a remarkably short time and kiwis love him for it. And he reckons he loves us too. It’s quite the kiwi conundrum, this likeable Aussie.
No wonder the club are clamouring to retain his services. A quick suggestion from the fans – give him whatever he wants. A ten-year contract. A house and car. Hell, give him a life time supply of pineapple lumps and the keys to the Mad Butcher’s Waiheke bach.
Just keep him here. The understated Aussie magician who, like his team, has grown in confidence and stature throughout the season.
How many times have you heard commentator’s pause to differentiate ‘this Warriors team’ from previous years, usually when highlighting defensive ticker or our ability to stay in the grind. To make opposition sides work. Blocker Roach just loves it.
Or how about “he’s in career best form”? Whether it be Shaun Johnson, Addin Fonua-Blake, Wade Egan, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Tohu Harris, Jackson Ford, Marata Niukore, or Marcelo Montoya. Dylan Walker has been a wrecking ball from the bench, bending the line both with and without the ball.
All of them playing like they’re enjoying their football. And when asked why, the players only have one name on their lips: Webster.
It doesn’t hurt that he has them defending like they belong in the frontline.
A few wobbly performances in recent weeks have the nervous and the anxious questioning their finals credentials.
The depleted bunnies bashing us at home in the rain and wind. The struggle to finish over a courageous 12-man Titans’ side. The courageous Canberra comeback. That frustrating mid-season loss to a misfiring Roosters team, who have been playing like they’re actually under the salary cap.
The doubts and concerns reveal the deeply carved emotional scars of seasons gone, like a legion of Harry Potters. And who could blame them?
I’m going to follow the players example, and enjoy the ride.
I have loved the transformation under Webster for a team I have supported for so long, with little return on the emotional investment aside from ulcers and possibly a drinking problem.
Warriors’ home games are selling out. ‘Keep the faith’ and ‘let’s gone Warriors’ signs have all but disappeared. Fans are everywhere, here and across the Tasman. Loud, screaming. Believing.
I will be one of them in Hamilton this weekend and I can’t wait. Up the Wahs!!!