Shame on me

There’s an old saying in New Zealand — I know it’s in Texas so it’s probably in New Zealand — that goes, ‘fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.’ It sums up exactly how I feel.

Shame on me for thinking that an offseason could solve the Warriors’ edge defence. Shame on me for expecting that signing some quality, premiership-winning players would automatically lift the level of everyone else, and shame on me for thinking that quality on paper could get the Warriors home against the NRL’s lesser lights. Shame on me for thinking that those preseason jitters were just a bad dream, something we’d look back and smile at once Ryan Hoffman was banking his first two points as captain.

On Saturday night, the Wests Tigers came out with more energy, more enthusiasm, more commitment and more desire than the men from Mt Smart, and it absolutely boggles my mind. How can a side with that many international quality players, with so much experience in key positions, start a season, let alone a season that is perhaps the most hyped season in all of their history, so flat? Did they not learn anything from the way they ended 2015?

Take nothing away from the Tigers, who scored a couple of brilliant tries, but the Warriors’ defensive effort in that first half was up there with the poorest display I have ever witnessed. Had the bounce of the ball gone the Tigers’ way a few more times, they could have been up 46–4 with a minute gone in the second half. But, by that stage, there’s a chance some people had either changed the channel or thrown their TV out the window. It was embarrassing to watch, and I damn well hope it was embarrassing to be a part of. Has this squad convinced themselves that having a good roster guarantees you a playoff spot?

Yes, the second half was a massive improvement. After a 41st minute scare the Warriors were the better team and almost pulled off what would have been a miraculous comeback. Was it not for a fairly average decision in the bunker, the Warriors would have won the second half 22–0. There were some encouraging signs during that spell, but I just can’t get over how bad that first 20 minutes was and how soft things were defensively. It just makes absolutely no sense to me. Is defence really that difficult? Every other team in the NRL seems to find a way.

Okay, breathe in.

Hold.

Then breathe out — release the anger.

Goosfraba.

Goooooosssssfraaaaaabaaaa.

It’s only Round 1.

Goosfraba.

It’s only Round 1.

And repeat:

It’s only Round 1.

It’s only Round 1.

Goooooosssssfraaaaaabaaaa!!!!!!

SET OF SIX

1) Spare a thought for Ben Henry, whose season looks to be over once again after another knee injury. A crushing blow for a kid who simply hasn’t been able to stay on the park during his NRL career. From all reports he’s one of the hardest workers around and comes across as an impressive character every time he’s on screen. Get well soon, Ben.

2) The Robson, Kata and Vatuvei edge can expect plenty of traffic headed its way this season. Both the players and the coaching staff are going to have to come up with a solution quickly or it’s going to get ugly (or, should I say, continue to be ugly). Whether the answer is moving Kata to the opposite wing to separate him and Manu, to remove Kata from the team completely, or maybe Manu needs to trust Solomone more and not creep off his wing, or maybe they can sort it out as the season progresses. I don’t know, but something has to change — and quickly.

3) Staying with Robson, it will be very interesting to see how his role evolves as the season goes on. Full disclosure, I’m a Robson doubter, but I was expecting he’d take control over a bigger slice of the offense than we saw on Saturday night. Of the Warriors’ sets that finished with kicks, Robson took only two, whereas ten sets finished with Johnson putting boot to ball. Early days for that combination, but for me Robson has to improve a great deal to warrant a spot once Thomas Leuluai returns from injury.

4) In a quirk of statistics, the Warriors completed 13 of 14 sets during a first half when they were made to look like amateurs, but made 8 errors, including a few howlers at their own end, in the half when they piled on the points.

5) On a positive note, wasn’t it a beautiful sight to see Shaun Johnson slicing through the defensive line and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in full flight?! A flurry of tries in the second half gave a glimpse of the attacking potential of this side — oh, how good could this Warriors side be if they could find a way to put an 80-minute performance together on both sides of the ball?

6) It’s the unfortunate question on everyone’s lips: how long does Andrew McFadden have to right the ship? If it’s only three or four games, he could be in trouble. With Brisbane on Friday and the Storm the following week, things look like they could get worse before they get better. In general, I’m against a coaching swap mid-season, especially so early on. But if McFadden can’t get this side to play defence, then I’m afraid someone has to be held accountable.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

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