This is definitely the toughest review of the year so far. It’s made me feel very sorry for Andrew McFadden and the rest of the coaching staff for having to sit through that footage again. I really hope that’s the last time this season any of us need to watch a performance like that. Storm v Warriors, usually one of the best games on the calendar, turned into an absolute flop.
As tempting as it was to keep this very, very brief:
Dreadful Warriors can’t hold ball, get crushed.
I thought I’d better take a slightly closer look at things, if only to try and take something positive to help keep that doubting voice in the back of my mind as quiet as possible during the week.
So you might be surprised to hear that the Warriors were actually the better team through the first 20 minutes of that game. They had plenty of chances to get ahead, but unfortunately they couldn’t capitalise on their early dominance and the majority of the next 60 was, to put it kindly, less-than-excellent.
A few individuals were strong again: Ben Matulino, Manu — but even they weren’t immune from errors.
At least we can take some relief, if you believe everything I write, that the Warriors are still on track for the Top 8.
The most frustrating part about Monday night was that the Storm didn’t have to be particularly good to beat us (apart from Marika Korobeite — wow!). In fact, although I’m not sure I believe it, the stats had the Warriors with the better completion rate of the two teams (66% to 65%). I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that if the Warriors had played to their potential, even for 50–60 minutes, they would have done enough to win. But when you can’t do the basics right, like HOLDING ON TO THE BALL, you don’t deserve the points, and you simply won’t win against anyone worth the price of admission in the NRL. As every team is showing, there are no pushover games in this competition. If you don’t bring your best, you can’t expect the W and nor do you deserve it.
SET OF SIX:
1) How do Cronk and Slater do it? Haven’t we seen these moves before? For year after year? Haven’t we trained to combat them, prepared for them? And yet they still pull them off. You’ve got to tip your hat to that kind of class, even if Billy the Kid does get smashed ‘em bro by The Beast in the first video below.
2) The Warriors’ defence went to pieces during second-phase play. The front-line defence was actually quite strong: good line-speed, hard hitting and driving players back. But as soon as something out of the ordinary happened, it was as if they didn’t know how to react or where to go. Is that an effort thing? Only they can answer that, but the Fonua, Korobeite (first try) and Chambers tries are examples where the Warriors were caught watching play unfold rather than shutting the play down. I’ve praised the Hoff a lot this season, but certainly think he could have done more to stop the Fonua, and even the Chambers, try. The Fonua try is definitely the worst. Solomone Kata’s teammates have either got too much confidence in him as a defender and expect he’ll wrap up Fonua, or they see the ball on the ground and switch off. I’m picking the latter.
3) Feed The Beast. It’s not often you see Manu Vatuvei get frustrated at teammates. He’s normally the first to rush in to try and lift them up after a mistake. But in the clip below, only 3 minutes into the game, he’s noticeably angry Solomone Kata doesn’t pass him the ball. And, it turned out later, with good reason. The more the Warriors can get Manu the ball in space, the better things will turn out.
4) Is youthful exuberance getting in the way of good option-taking? Solomone Kata has been guilty a few times this year of backing himself rather than passing to Manu, and right near the end of the first half, Konrad Hurrell was visibly upset when Tui Lolohea failed to give the pass. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved watching these youngsters express themselves, but it is clear they’ve still got a lot to learn. We saw it with Konrad when he stepped up to the NRL from Holden Cup — the defence is much, much better, so the opportunities to bulldoze or brush off would-be tacklers are few and far between. Learning when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em will be key to the development of these baby Warriors.
5) Simon Mannering is developing a habit for lifting the legs to complete a tackle. I can understand the theory — bringing a player to ground to slow the play-the-ball — but with the NRL on high-alert for lifting tackles, Captain Mannering needs to be careful not to give away needless penalties like the one below.
6) Aren’t there some phenomenal Fijian wingers in the NRL. Semi Radradra, Eto Nabuli, Sisa Waqa, Akuila Uate . . . the list goes on. Marika Korobeite showed last night he’s right up there with the best of them. He charged into every hit-up, was safe when tested under the high ball and solid in defence. He’d have had a good game even apart from his two tries and devastating break to set up another. Bodene Thompson might want to excuse himself during the video review session every time Korobeite touches the ball. At the very least, the word ‘Korobeite’ is bound to send shivers racing up Thompson’s spine for the next few weeks.
THE GOLDEN POINT:
Goal-kicking is easily under-rated. As much as the Warriors never seemed in that match, if Shaun Johnson had kicked his goals, at two key moments in the second half, they would have only been a converted try behind (18–12 instead of 18–10 and 24–18 instead of 24–14). It doesn’t always seem like a big deal at the time, but knowing you’re only one try away has got to be a massive psychological boost when you’re mounting a comeback. Shaun made huge progress with his goal-kicking last year and seems to have taken a step backwards so far this season. We can only hope, like the rest of his game, that it will come back as soon as things click into gear.