Round 1 Jitters

For the second consecutive morning, it is 4:30am and I am wide awake. Maybe it’s because I find myself lying on damp sheets in a shallow pool of cold sweat, or maybe it’s the million and one thoughts that slosh around my mind like they’re in a spin cycle — they come and go so quickly that I can only catch a glimpse of what they are about, only a fraction of what they might be trying to tell me.

***

All week I’ve been excited. How could I not be? I will say this just once, for those of you who’ve been living under a rock or on total media lockdown, the NRL season is here! The Warriors have signed Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke, Shaun Johnson’s ankle has healed. There’s more than just hope circling Warrior Nation, there’s genuine expectation not just that this could be the year, but that this should be the year the men from Mt Smart hold the Provan-Summons Trophy aloft. But each night I keep waking with a startle, immediately alert.

***

It’s almost spooky how similar today is to yesterday. The first numbers I see, on the digital alarm clock resting on my bedside table, are 4:18. A message? A hidden meaning? An 18–4 victory? Or a 4–18 loss? Whatever it is, it’s clear that the nerves are there, a haunting voice that lingers in the background, one that is only audible at certain times, can only be heard in those moments of silence between the enthusiastic self-chatter. It’s a voice that speaks only in whispers, but somehow the echo increases in volume with the passing of time.

I can feel that voice trying to take me back to last night’s dream. Initially I fight, but its pull is too powerful, the memories it evokes are too strong to ignore. It makes sense now why I am wide awake, why I’m still shivering.

***

Before I continue, I want to warn you that this was just a dream. Not even a dream really, just a collection of thoughts that I remember having, remember worrying about. I am no psychic. More than likely there is nothing to worry about. I only recount these dreams, or this one dream that has recurred, to try and purge it from my system, banish it from my mind.

***

I remember that this was more a dream within a dream. One where I’m not sure which layer I am in. I am outside my body, looking down at a me who is asleep, who is dreaming, although it looks more like a nightmare to me. I see only flashes that merge together like a montage of horror. A mish-mash of knock-ons and missed tackles from all the Round 1 games since 2009, the last time the Warriors won their opening fixture. I see the previous match at Campbelltown, Round 25, 2015. My body jerks violently as the Tigers score try after try. Sometimes I see an image of myself, slumped in a seat, my jersey over my head and my hands covering my eyes.

Then I see a game I don’t recognise, one that hasn’t happened yet because there’s RTS and Issac Luke and Jeff Robson and Blake Ayshford in Warriors’ jumpers. There’s a knock-on. A missed tackle. The Tigers score a try. I see orange flags waving. I can’t see a scoreboard anywhere but I don’t feel well and that vision of the old me slumped in a seat comes back into view. It looks like the same image as before but now I’m confused and it doesn’t feel fair because we’ve got such a good team, a team that could make a real run at this title, and the Tigers aren’t even going to make the playoffs but it seems like they’ve beaten us because those flags won’t stop waving and Aaron Woods is grinning through his beard like the Cheshire Cat and now I see the newspaper headlines and a similar scene in Brisbane and an NRL ladder that says we’re 0–2 and then 0–3 and it feels like I’m stuck in a whirlpool and Andrew McFadden has been fired and Konrad Hurrell’s playing for the Titans and Shaun Johnson and Manu Vatuvei are walking around on crutches while RTS is looking for offloads from Blake Ayshford and Jono Wright and Jeff Robson and Jason Death and John Simon and Dane Nielsen and Todd Lowrie and journeyman Australians are everywhere and I just don’t know how this happened and how I’m going to handle another season sitting at a half-full Mt Smart Stadium in the freezing cold and pouring rain without sobbing uncontrollably every time I walk through the gates.

***

Is it crazy to think that a loss against the Tigers could crush this season? Even in the early hours of the morning, that does seem drastic. But Round 2 is a tough away fixture against the Broncos. Lose that and suddenly you’re 0–2 in a season that has never been more hyped, with a coach under huge pressure to perform, the nation’s media on your back, the casual fans filling social media with negativity born out of a 20-year history where, for the most part, on-field performance has failed to live up to lofty expectations. So you go into Round 3 carrying all that on your back, against a Melbourne Storm side with four of the best players in the game (Jesse Bromwich has earned the right to be in that conversation), and you come unstuck and now you’re 0-3 and so on and so on. However you see this season panning out, there’s no doubt in my mind that this game is incredibly important.

Like I said, this was just a dream. And it’s out now. Gone. Hopefully never to return. Tonight, I expect to sleep soundly, with a smile on my face after I finally come down from the high of the Warriors first win in Campbelltown since Keeping Up with the Kardashians made its way onto our TV screens. The Tigers are missing Farah, Ballin and Brooks, very little is expected of them this season. But perhaps this dream can serve as a reminder that we should try to enjoy every minute of success that comes the Warriors way this year, be it great or small. Things can turn all too quickly. One loss can destroy a season. One win can start an avalanche of success that becomes near impossible to stop until it reaches its natural conclusion.

Let’s hope that snowball starts rolling tonight.

FLASHBACK

A great Warriors comeback kickstarts the run to the 2011 Grand Final. Inu!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

TEAM LISTS

Saturday 5 March, 5:30pm, Campbelltown

Warriors

1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

2 Tuimoala Lolohea

3 Blake Ayshford

4 Solomone Kata

5 Manu Vatuvei

6 Shaun Johnson

7 Jeff Robson

8 Jacob Lillyman

9 Issac Luke

10 Ben Matulino

11 Ben Henry

12 Ryan Hoffman (c)

13 Simon Mannering

Interchange

14 Nathaniel Roache

15 Sam Lisone

16 James Gavet

17 Bodene Thompson

18 Jonathan Wright

20 Albert Vete

Coach: Andrew McFadden

 

Wests Tigers

1 James Tedesco

2 David Nofoaluma

3 Tim Simona

4 Kevin Naiqama

5 Jordan Rankin

6 Mitchell Moses

7 Jack Littlejohn

8 Aaron Woods (c)

9 Manaia Cherrington

10 Tim Grant

11 Curtis Sironen

12 Chris Lawrence

13 Sauaso Sue

Interchange

14 Kyle Lovett

15 Josh Aloiai

16 Ava Seumanufagai

17 Jack Buchanan

18 Michael Chee Kam

Coach: Jason Taylor

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