We did it!

There have been some incredibly momentous firsts in New Zealand’s history: Ernest Rutherford split the atom, Kate Sheppard led a campaign to give women the right to vote. Jean Batten flew solo from one side of the world to the other, and, on 29 May 1953, Edmund Hillary, a beekeeper from Aotearoa, stood above the rest of us at the summit of Mt Everest.

These historic events wouldn’t have happened without tremendous perseverance. Years of hard work that led to a single moment, a culmination of a life’s work until that point. There were immense obstacles to overcome, but great things are rarely achieved without struggle, without some form of suffering — it takes time, as they say.

And while the Warriors may never feature on a bank note, may never feature in a newsreel that stops the world, let’s not diminish what they achieved on Easter Monday 2016. It was a performance that was meaningful, one that sparked an outpouring of joy, as well as a collective deep sigh of relief right across Warrior Nation.

On Monday, we knocked the bastard off, we broke the shackles, lifted a giant weight from our shoulders and, hopefully, learned again what it feels like to win. We remembered how to win and, in doing so, recaptured the belief that it is even possible to be victorious. We did something that, at times, has felt like an impossible task.

Newcastle may well be handed the spoon at the end of the season, but don’t let that take the gloss off this historic one-in-a-row moment. Eight months and 16 days we have waited — we have a right to treasure it, a right to sit back and smile, a right to gobble it up and bask in the sunshine with our head leaned back toward the sun and our bellies in the air. To yell ‘Woohoo’ and dance like nobody’s watching.

There are moments in life to be cherished: welcoming a child into the world, watching the love of your life walk toward you along the aisle, standing in front of the many breathtaking natural and man-made wonders this planet has to offer. In these moments, time both stands still and moves incredibly quickly. Your heart seems to stop, your mind is perfectly clear. But if you did feel your chest you’d wonder how your ribs were still intact, such is the ferocity of your pounding heart. If you paused to take stock, you’d realise that there are so many thoughts and questions and emotions racing through your mind. It’s at these times when it feels as though you and those around you are the only people who are alive, the only people who could feel so much joy, because you simply can’t imagine how anything could feel as good as you do at that second, in that breath, that instant, where everything is perfect and there is no poverty or war or sickness or sadness or anything that isn’t sunshine and rainbows, love, life and laughter, or The Beast pointing to the heavens.

It’s at these times, these victorious moments, when the struggle finally seems worth it, when the eight months and 16 days of heartache and frustration and darkness all melts away and only the sweet taste of success remains. It’s important to celebrate these good times, to rejoice loud and proud, not just because you never know what the next day may bring, but because you earned it Warrior Nation.

Set of Six

1) The Warriors changed the direction of that game with their defensive line speed and intensity. After an indifferent first half performance, Mt Smart Stadium was filled with trepidation. This was a game we had to win, should win, and things weren’t going to plan. But, whatever was said at halftime, it worked. The Warriors came charging out of the tunnel on defence and that pressure and field position led to three quick tries, which basically sealed the game for the home side within 12 minutes.

2) What a difference Manu makes. Speaking of field position, you’d be hard pressed to find a player in the NRL who starts a set of six better than Manu Vatuvei. He bent the line on almost every run, put the Warriors on the front foot and was a key figure in helping the Warriors march out of the danger end and put themselves in positions to score.

3) Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, looking dangerous. There’s not a game that goes by when RTS doesn’t take plenty of carries and make a stack of metres, but Monday saw him much more involved in the finer details of the offence. Whether it was joining the running line as a second or third man to create space for his outsides, providing a support option on the inside or running off the shoulder looking for offloads, Roger was a serious attacking threat for the entire 80 minutes for perhaps the first time in a Warriors jumper. If he’s able to inject himself into the attacking play that way, it adds a whole extra level of trouble for the opposition and makes the men from Mt Smart look like a much more dangerous team.

4) Charlie Gubb loves tackling. And Mt Smart Stadium loves Charlie Gubb. There’s no more energetic player at the club and his enthusiasm rubs off on both the team and the fans. It was great to see that effort rewarded with extended playing time and the two points.

5) Jazz Tevaga, engaging defenders. Jazz Tevaga has made an impressive start to his NRL career. Last week, he equipped himself well after being thrown in the deep end, and on Monday afternoon the Warriors flourished when he was on the field. While he’s certainly not the finished product, the way he forced defenders to respect him on attack, created extra space for the halves, which in turn led to try time on the edges.

6) Perhaps the most encouraging thing about that performance was that the men from Mt Smart enjoyed a resounding 22-point win but still have plenty of areas for improvement. They gave away a number of silly, piggy-back penalties, made 12 errors and spent long periods of the first half looking disjointed. If they ever find that 80-minute performance Ryan Hoffman keeps requesting, we might be lucky enough to enjoy a few more smiles before this season ends.

Match Highlights

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