Hop To It

On a weekend where hundreds of millions around the world, billions even, celebrate the resurrection of a religious icon, the Warriors return to the chapel of Mt Smart to attempt a resurrection of their own. It’s been a somewhat sluggish and disjointed start to the season, with three consecutive losses as new and returning players figure out how to mesh together, but steady improvements from week-to-week suggest that elusive win may not be too far away.

Signs of frustration emanate from within the Warriors’ camp, and you get the sense that this week is not about enjoying the hunt for treasure, not about continuing ‘the process’, but about getting the chocolates as quickly as possible, using whatever means necessary, and then ripping off the wrapping paper and stuffing themselves until there’s no room left on the scoreboard. The focus is no longer on the performance, not about building combinations, individual brilliance, completion rates, missed tackles or anything else but the outcome. Nothing matters other than the two competition points.

As a fan, I couldn’t agree more. It’s a fixture that looms as a must-win for so many reasons, not the least of which is putting an end to this losing streak and finally seeing what this Warriors side can do once that monkey is off their back. It’s about easing the pressure on Andrew McFadden, Shaun Johnson and the rest of the squad. About giving them a reason to believe in the wonders of social media once again — how unfair it is that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been the unintentional casualties of this situation. Oh, the humanity — how long can these poor media giants reasonably be expected to suffer?

oh-the-humanity_o_1941325

Whether we witness 80 minutes of great rugby league or divine intervention this Easter Monday is irrelevant. I’d happily give up all the Easter eggs in the world for those two competition points.

The Knights come to Mt Smart on the back of their best performance of the year, a 24–24 draw with Canberra, where they dominated the metres gained to all but pull off an upset. They’re a relatively inexperienced side, dubbed by many as the easybeats of this competition, but in Trent Hodkinson and Jarrod Mullen they boast a halves pairing with the smarts to conjure up enough opportunities for the Novacastrians to stay in the contest right to the end. And, given the external and internal stresses the Warriors are feeling, simply hanging around might be enough for the Knights. Let the men from Mt Smart lead them to the chocolates, then pounce at the crucial moment to steal the victory.

If history tells us anything, the Warriors have nothing to worry about. They’ve won nine of the previous 10 encounters between these two sides at the chapel of Mt Smart, and are heavy favourites with the bookmakers to be feasting on the chocolates long before the Easter Bunny disappears back to its burrow and the rest of us head back to the joys of the working week. If the Warriors are ever going to win in 2016, all signs point to Monday being that momentous day.

The ideal result would be for the Warriors to get off to a quick start, seal the win early and build confidence as the match grows. There’s so much untapped attacking potential just waiting to be unleashed, but without the belief and trust in one another that comes from winning, that potential may never make it to the surface. Support play, in particular, is one area where the men from Mt Smart need to improve, and I’m hoping to see multiple players in motion on almost every hit-up, especially in the opposition half. Monday looms as a statement game, a game to silence the critics, at least for a brief moment, but the only way to do that is to ensure the Knights head back to Newcastle with their tails between their legs.

Match details

Warriors v Knights, Monday 28 April

Gates Open: 1:30pm

NYC Kick-off: 1:45pm

NRL Kick-off: 4pm

Standing ovation for the first NRL win in a long, long time: approx. 5:40pm

Flashback

This week we go back to 2013, when the Warriors secured a win to restore some faith after a tough loss. Sound familiar?

Teams

WARRIORS

1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

2 Tuimoala Lolohea

3 Blake Ayshford

4 Solomone Kata

5 Jonathan Wright

6 Shaun Johnson

7 Jeff Robson

8 Jacob Lillyman

9 Jazz Tevega

10 Ben Matulino

11 Bodene Thompson

12 Ryan Hoffman (c)

13 Simon Mannering

Interchange

14 Charlie Gubb

15 Sam Lisone

16 Konrad Hurrell

17 Albert Vete

Coach: Andrew McFadden

KNIGHTS

1 Dane Gagai

2 Nathan Ross

3 Sione Mata’utia (although has since been suspended)

4 Pat Mata’utia

5 Cory Denniss

6 Jarrod Mullen

7 Trent Hodkinson (c)

8 Sam Mataora

9 Tyler Randell

10 Korbin Sims

11 Jacob Saifiti

12 Robbie Rochow

13 Jeremy Smith

Interchange

14 Danny Levi

15 Mickey Paea

16 Lachlan Fitzgibbon

17 Pauli Pauli

Coach: Nathan Brown

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