Déjà vu?

With the Warriors reaching the dizzy heights of the Top 4, on the back of a three-game win streak, it’s time to start asking ourselves those hard but hopeful questions:

Can they sustain this form to finish out the regular season?

Do they have a serious shot at the title?

We’ve been here before. Many times. Every sports fan has. It’s one of those matches where you start to think, ‘You know, if we beat the Roosters, away from home, then we can genuinely beat anyone.’ Then from there it doesn’t take much to convince yourself that it is our year, that your life has been building to this moment, that all the heartache, all the disappointment, is about to end — and cancel your holiday and book yourself two tickets to the grand final. Even the Aussie media has started to get on the bandwagon, cooking up stories about the Warriors having all the ingredients necessary to win.

If you’re standing at the crossroads wondering which direction to turn, Sunday afternoon looms as a signpost that will be hard to miss. This Roosters team is absolutely stacked with Origin and Test stars, and even those without representative honours are getting plenty of praise. The Roosters have struggled with consistency this year, but still find themselves in third position on the ladder and look the best hope to keep the Provan-Summons Trophy in Sydney. Away from home, in the shadows of Allianz’s giant screens, without Vatuvei, Hurrell and Hoffman, the Warriors will need to be at their very best to win.

If this sounds familiar, think back six weeks, when a trip to Perth seemed another moment when the season was poised to go either way. That didn’t end well, but somehow we find ourselves back here, in an even better spot on the ladder, with teams like the Dragons and the Storm in free-fall, Shaun Johnson zig-zagging past defenders and Nathan Friend going viral.

So do we strap ourselves in again? Throw our hands in the air, let go of all our inhibitions and prepare to be entertained?

I’m not so sure. I’m definitely on the rollercoaster, but I’m still holding that bar tightly hoping there’s no glitch in the matrix.

The Round 14 clash with the Roosters was the first signs of this new sense of calmness and composure that has washed over the Warriors in recent weeks. Anyone remembering the second-half collapse and the calamitous final few minutes may argue otherwise, but the seeds were sown that night for the victories that have followed since. The gameplan was built around controlling field position, building pressure and grinding the opposition down in order to capitalise on their mistakes. Ultimately the men from Mt Smart couldn’t get the W, but the Warriors should take some heart from the fact they were able to score 21 points against the best defensive side in the competition.

And with Shaun Johnson doing things like this:

there’s no doubt the Warriors have enough firepower to get the two points at Allianz. Johnson gave everyone a scare this week when he limped off the training paddock, but he’s expected to play and was presented his jersey by his father in what will be his 100th match. Johnson is playing on another level at the moment, but he’ll need his forwards to achieve at least parity to allow him to work his magic.

Matulino v JWH looks another good matchup, but it’s the Roosters bench that could be the difference-makers. Taukeiaho and Co. bring so much energy and go-forward that it allows the Sydney-siders to maintain constant pressure on the opposition’s defensive line. They’re relentless, and the Warriors are yet to prove they can handle such pressure for 80 minutes against the elite sides this season. The Storm was a step up, and one the men from Mt Smart dealt with well, but the Roosters are another level again.

What to watch for

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s positional play. I’ve been told by someone whose opinion I value, that this is a real weakness in Tuivasa-Sheck’s game. Let’s all watch closely and compare notes.

NRL Warrior prediction

I’m standing at the crossroads and still can’t decide which way to turn. If you’ve read any earlier previews, I’m sure it’s very clear where my biases lie. But this Roosters side is terrifying. On paper, there’s just no weaknesses. As much as I’d love to say Sunday will be the day the Warriors make the NRL stand to attention, I think the trip to Allianz will prove a bridge too far. Roosters by 8.

Highlights from previous match

Teams

WARRIORS

1 Sam Tomkins

2 Tuimoala Lolohea

3 David Fusitu’a

4 Solomone Kata

5 Jonathan Wright

6 Chad Townsend

7 Shaun Johnson

8 Jacob Lillyman

9 Nathan Friend

10 Ben Matulino

11 Bodene Thompson

12 Raymond Faitala-Mariner

13 Simon Mannering (c)

Interchange

14 Siliva Havili

15 Sione Lousi

16 Charlie Gubb

17 Albert Vete

18 Sam Rapira

ROOSTERS

1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

2 Daniel Tupou

3 Michael Jennings

4 Blake Ferguson

5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall

6 James Maloney

7 Mitchell Pearce (c)

8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

9 Jake Friend (c)

10 Dylan Napa

11 Boyd Cordner

12 Mitchell Aubusson

13 Aiden Guerra

Interchange

14 Sam Moa

15 Isaac Liu

16 Kane Evans

17 Sio Siua Taukeiaho

18 Jackson Hastings

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