I have a passion for greenhouses, it is the industry I have worked in my entire career and I hope that won’t change until I retire. I really enjoy writing articles and sharing information about greenhouses. However, if you did not know I am also a sport tragic. I love sports, especially rugby, rugby league and cricket then there is the sailing and the Olympics, the list goes on. I played rugby and cricket for 20 years, well I still play cricket but not against big angry fast bowlers as when I opened the batting with the current All Black Captain (my claim to fame). I have coached a little of both codes but I have a young family that has been curtailed that for now.
So, I have decided to start writing about my favourite pastime, what qualifies me, well nothing - but what qualifies sports journalists that write about sports but have never played. For my first ever sports report I want to write about the 25 years of elation, frustration, despair, which has been in my life…… the Warriors. Now I know I am not alone.
As I write this article, I am currently watching Souths v the Warriors, like a script with 17 minutes left the predictable score line is 24-10 to Souths. Yes, the Warriors or as I have described, the Worriers season is nearly over. By round 15 or 16 this season it was effectively over. This competition is so intense that making up lost ground is almost impossible, the odds are low.
So why have the Warriors again failed to make the play offs or make the top four. Well the same reason why 8 other teams will miss out on the finals. Winning the NRL is without stating the obvious quite difficult! The team that eventually wins the NRL will be the team that is fit, skilful, strong, smart and probably had a relatively injury free season. Now, I don’t believe, and just won’t believe, that any of the other 7 teams including the Warriors that are not playing finals football did not want to win. There are 1000’s of players that would give a body part to play in this competition, it’s not like a local club footy game where you play for fun and not money. Even then I have never played with guys who didn’t want to win – no one ever turned up to play and enjoyed losing.
After 25 years of watching the Warriors, continually struggling, it is easy to blame refereeing. Now I have seen some crazy things that have made my blood boil with referees’ decisions over the years but I do only look at this from my point of view which is one eyed. Do the referees have a bearing that contributes to Warriors player’s confidence and morale?
I look at this year’s team and there is one player who is just been sensational, outstanding, amazing, brilliant, superb and many more superlatives. RTS: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is without doubt the best player in this team. His attack, defence and crucially his desire make him, in my mind, the best rugby league player on the planet. A lot of scribes talk about the Roosters fullback (who is amazing), but behind the Roosters forward pack and the NSW forward pack imagine what RTS could achieve.
I thought that the Warriors tried hard during their home game against Souths, basically they were just not good enough. The Warriors are athletes, strong and fast, but all season have just appeared off the pace with their counterpart’s fitness levels. The 17 players that took the field vs Souths were trying, they want to win for their fans, they don’t want to lose like they have been this year but they must admit, they have just not been good enough as a unit. Even RTS has not been able to get his team mates up to a high enough level consistently and regularly, to win this competition.
The defence, needed to win this competition, has to be on point. Defence is what wins this competition, if you hold a team to 0 you won’t lose. Now that is not going to happen often but it should be every team’s ultimate objective. The Warriors defence is not bad it’s just not as good as the top teams. The Warriors have missed tackles but it is not because these guys don’t know how to tackle its more the fact they are being out muscled and pushed off the ball or they are a few millisecond’s slow reacting. They then find themselves in areas harder to effectively make those tackles. It’s not rocket science.
This year the attack has been ok, yes it could have been better but if you are not winning the collision and the forwards are not making the meters, getting a roll on, then your attack will be on the back foot. You need the attacking smarts and the spine needs to organise this but if you make errors the attack will struggle, again not difficult to talk about but a lot harder to execute. The Warriors have lost a lot of home games this year with many in the rain, cold or dewy weather, they make too many handling errors in these conditions. When they have played in Australia, they appear to make less handling errors. Yes, its warmer in Australia but when you’re fatigued it’s much easier to catch the ball in the dry than the wet. Reduction in error rate is again crucial but your opposition won’t make this easy.
Coaching has a bearing on results but how much is attributed to the off-field decision makers. I may be barking up the wrong tree but if you look at the longest serving coach in the NRL he has a unique approach. Wayne Bennett has a game plan; he obviously helps with preparing the team but it appears he gives a lot of responsibility to his players. Mr Bennett has not been a coach of every winning team but he has won a lot in his career. His teams make finals countless number of times. I wonder if the warriors attack ‘brains trust’ are overthinking and need to place more emphasis on territory. Get the opposition defence on the backfoot.
Like other battered Warriors fans, I want the Warriors to win this competition next year, I don’t want them to build for the future, that means you are already declaring you’re not going to win. I want them to win. The coaching staff can analyse what they need to analyse, give players guidelines to perform and then let these men go out and play. If the players need to ‘real time’ alter the game plan, let them make the decision on field. RTS with other senior players have the intelligence to change a game plan on the run if they need to. Most importantly let them have fun and if they fun it means they will probably be winning more than losing.
Special mention to Chanel Harris-Tavita, great young talent, next Cameron Munster if he is prepared to work for it.
I will always support the Warriors and unless they leave the competition and we have our own pacific competition I will continue to watch NRL. I can’t help it, I am addicted!! And if they are going to expand the NRL how about a team based in Wellington!