I knew it was risky to get up at halftime. I was losing feeling in my foot, but the boys were up 12–0 and perhaps it could have been more. Life was good.
Shaun Johnson was in the zone, combining with Super-solid Man to score one of the tries of the season, kicking goals from the sideline and even coming up with big hits in defence. Sure, I Heart Hoffman and Thomas Leuluai had left the field, not to return, but the Warriors were clearly the better team.
I knew once I moved that foot that things would be different. That’s the way life works. You can’t change your environment and expect the same results. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. When a butterfly flaps its wings in China, and all that.
As the second half began, I kicked back, flexed my leg and sipped on my freshly poured glass of water. It was careless, arrogant even; I know that now. Who was I to think my job was done? It shouldn’t have mattered that my leg was hurting. The pins and needles were nothing compared to the pain as Semi Radradra dived over to make it 12–8 with less than 10 minutes gone in the second half. We all felt it, that sting, that little squeeze — when you know that something bad is happening but you don’t quite know how to fix it.
I slid my foot back down the side of the couch, trying to find that lucky spot, but then Ryan Morgan went over in the corner and suddenly it was hard to breathe. We couldn’t get out of our own end. What had I done? How could I have been so stupid?
I’d been selfish, that was clear. So I prepared for the worst. I had no choice. Like a guilty man in a courtroom waiting for the verdict, I sat in silence, my head bowed.
Weak excuses ran through my mind: ‘I was thirsty’, ‘I couldn’t feel my foot’, but I knew how pathetic they sounded. How could I claim to be part of the team if I wasn’t prepared to go through the pain barrier, if I wasn’t prepared to dig in and sacrifice a little of myself for those two points?
By the time Chad kicked that field goal, I’d learned my lesson. I didn’t say a word, didn’t move a muscle on the lower half of my body. The side of the chair took a hammering, but I knew it wasn’t over yet.
Kelly’s set up out the back there. Get up on him. We’re gone, we can’t take another 10 minutes of this. This is our only chance. Someone stop him. Oh no. Oh no.
There’s pain in my chest and I’ve begun to sweat. Is my arm sore? I would tell you but I can’t really feel it any more.
Extra time is a blur. The ball goes up and down the field but there might be two fields, and I’m not really sure what colour the Warriors’ jersey is any more. Who’s got the ball? Which way are we going?
But then Pauli Pauli’s been wrong-footed and no one wants to tackle Bodene Thompson. Time moves slowly now, as if it’s not really happening. Is it happening? Andrew Voss yells ‘Well have a look at this!’ and the referee’s sent it upstairs as a try!
Now I’m on the floor with my head buried in the beanbag. ‘Thank you Bodene. Thank you for coming in to my life. Even when you missed that tackle against the Titans, or at the death there against the Cowboys. I love you. I knew you had it in you. I never doubted you. Yes. Yes. What’s going on? Why are they still looking at these replays?’
I leap to my feet, pointing at the TV. ‘The ball is there. It’s on the line. I can see it. It’s right there. Hurry up and press the button. Don’t do this to me. Whatareyoudoingtome?It’srighttheredon’tyouseeit. Yes. Yes Yesyesyesyesyesyesyes!!!!!!!!!’
And then it felt like I was floating and then the world was fuzzy, before everything went dark.
SET OF SIX
1) Let’s not get carried away. Saturday was a crucial win. Back-to-back away wins are definitely something to celebrate. But wins this year have come against the Raiders, Sharks, Tigers and two against the Eels, a team tightening their grasp on the wooden spoon. While the last two weeks have given us a lot to get excited about, there are much tougher tests to come.
2) But in saying that, it’s important to praise the determination and effort put forward on Saturday — that was a seriously gutsy win. Losing Ryan Hoffman was a huge blow — remember what happened when he left the field against the Titans — but this time everyone picked up the slack. Physically, they didn’t have much left to give, but the men from Mt Smart fought hard to the end, and that’s all you can ask for as a fan.
3) Ryan Hoffman should be forced to sit out Origin 1. I am no doctor, and I don’t know how Ryan Hoffman feels now or how he felt by halftime on Saturday, but that’s twice in the space of three games that he’s been heavily concussed. It’s a worrying sign, and, as much as I think he deserves to pull on that Blues jumper he loves so much, his health needs to come first.
4) A major refereeing decision went the Warriors’ way. No, I don’t mean the final try in extra time — that was clear cut. On one of the replays you can see the ball touching the line. Mark Gasnier is on another planet if he thinks otherwise. But, with 6 minutes to go, Sione Lousi strips the ball from Tim Mannah with three in the tackle, about 20 metres out from the Warriors’ line, right in front of the posts. At the end of that set of six, Chad Townsend slotted a field goal and we all know what happened from there. We fans are quick to complain when refereeing decisions go against Mannering’s men, but this time the 50–50 definitely went the Warriors’ way.
5) The Warriors really missed The Beast. When the Warriors are buried at their own end, it’s usually Manu who charges forward for that first hit-up. He almost always gets across the advantage line, and almost always gets a quick play of the ball. But with Manu absent, those easy metres disappeared, especially in that second half when the Warriors needed them most.
6) Tui Lolohea is a real try-saver. Tui’s making a habit of saving tries, and his defence is quickly becoming a feature of this Warriors side. Not only did he get across to save a second Semi Radradra try, but I’d argue he saved another try with a tackle on Nathan Peats early in the first half after the Warriors let the ball bounce close to their own line — never leave your fate up to the bounce of a footy ball! Lolohea has struggled a little to find his role in the attacking line, but, if Sam Tomkins returns as expected after the bye, Coach Cappy has a decision on his hands trying to fit Tui in somewhere.
THE GOLDEN POINT
The Warriors have started to win the tight ones. They’re just about killing us in the process (no, not JK’s process), but if they continue to get across the line, maybe it’s worth giving up the 84th year of your life for a premiership ring? What were you planning to do with that year anyway? Regardless of how much we value our health, who are we to complain — we all knew it was a rollercoaster before we hopped on board — there’s no use screaming now.
FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS