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April 30, 2018 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Warriors Aren’t the Real Deal…Yet

It’s that time of year again — the Blues have capitulated within the first seven games of the season and have almost certainly written off their playoff chances. So Auckland fans switch codes and try their luck once more, with what seems like the most erratic and frustrating team to back: the Warriors. This time, they have the weight of recently dormant supporters across the country, who will try and convince you that they’ve been around longer than their latest receipt for this year’s playing jersey would indicate.

The Warriors look good this year, with key playmaker Shaun Johnson seemingly back to his old self, after being out of action for over a month following a ligament tear in his knee at the tail-end of last season. Having faced criticism in previous years about his inability to take control over a backline, this year Johnson has directed what looks like one of the most dangerous backlines in the competition, squeezing the potential out of the players. The in form Johnson currently sits in the top ten in the league for try assists, line engagements, and total points scored.

For the first time in club history, the Warriors started the season with five wins from five games. They are playing with precision and are having the ability to close out games, which in previous years would have been given away through unforced errors or dire defence. Despite a small slip-up against an inconsistent Brisbane Broncos side, they have managed to win away from home, something they have struggled to do for over a decade.

However, it is also that time of year where the Warriors fans come out in force, rave on about how this is their season before they begin to vanish by the middle of the competition when the Warriors’ record is equally horrific as the Blues’ is.

Since the Warriors’ last playoff appearance in 2011, an ugly and predictable cycle has emerged season after season. The Warriors, who always boast ludicrous potential and what looks like the making of a championship side, seem to find themselves searching for a real identity after the first few rounds. They can go from a couple of compelling wins in front of the Mt. Smart faithful, to ugly and lacklustre defeats across the ditch. As Origin comes around, they are able to squeeze out a few scrappy wins against teams who lose key players over the five-week period, putting them on the brink of a playoff spot. Then, the dreaded round 13 comes around. The halfway point of the NRL season, and by this point most teams have asserted themselves as title contenders or wooden spoon dwellers, but the Warriors are in the middle of the pack, fighting in a make or break situation every year. Though, in the Warrior’s case, they seem to be more inclined towards the latter option, as they succumb to second half syndrome.

Since 2012 the Warriors have only won 26 out of the 72 matches they have played after round 13; a 36%-win rate. They fail to close out games as pressure mounts, clubs across the Tasman continue to improve, the brutal travel schedule takes its toll, and the early season fortress of Mt. Smart stadium looks more bare than their trophy cabinet as fan numbers dwindle.

Even though the Warriors have started this season exceptionally well, their biggest test to date lies in the next round, coming home to play a hot West Tigers side who will be coming fresh off of a bye-week. If the Warriors can stand up to the challenge and continue to grind out tough games, then they may be in a good stead going into the Origin break. If that is the case, then I hope to be proved wrong for the second half of the season, but for now, I think Warrior fans and writers alike should keep both feet firmly on the ground, because this is all too predictable, and a second-half collapse is still something they should be very wary of.


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