Riding the Wave

Fresh off their first win of 2016, Warrior Nation has enjoyed one of the more pleasant weeks in recent memory. On Easter Monday, the men from Mt Smart finally remembered what it feels like to stand tall, to overcome the tricky seas of the NRL and catch a wave for long enough to secure the two points. Now, as they paddle back out past the breakers and wait for the next challenge to arrive, it’s important we all take an extra second to breathe, an extra moment to look out across the ocean, to marvel at its beauty and wonder what the next swell might bring.

Simply to get up on the board after 11 consecutive unsuccessful attempts has brought its own joys: A week without non-stop calls to sack the coach, sack all the players, sack the board. A few days when it’s been exciting to watch the highlights, enjoyable to read the articles or watch the sports news. It’s an unfamiliar place, this one-in-a-row, but now that we’ve got that out of the way, the question becomes: How long can we stay up before we bail? How long can we ride this wave of euphoria?

Sunday afternoon brings a fresh challenge against a Roosters side eager to open their account in 2016. Injuries, pre-season transfers and lewd acts have left the Sydney-siders without a host of big names, turning a fixture that shaped as one of the toughest of the season into a potentially winnable one on paper.

But, as we know, competition points are earned on the field, not off it, and this next crop of young chicks will be keen to prove they can turn their season around in spite of the notable absentees. In Latrell Mitchell, Jackson Hastings, Dylan Napa, Kane Evans and former Warriors junior Sio Siua Taukeiaho, the Roosters certainly have enough firepower to trouble any team. Throw in a few internationals and Origin representatives and you realise the 0–4 record means nothing once they cross that white line. The men from Mt Smart will need to bring their A game or they’ll leave the Central Coast empty-handed.

For all the excitement that came from a win, the Warriors’ performance against the Knights was far from complete. While there were promising signs that the attack can actually look cohesive when the forwards roll through the middle and combinations click, defensive worries still linger beneath the surface, with the line speed slow and lethargic at times and one-on-one misses leading to simple Newcastle tries. Sunday looks like a better test of how far the Kiwi side has come since that horror first-half against the Tigers. It’s one thing to beat the likely wooden-spooners at home, but to win away, against a historically strong opponent, would be a signal that maybe, just maybe, this side is starting to feel comfortable out beyond the shallows.

It’s still only early, but this match looks incredibly important as the season begins to take shape. After finally breaking the hoodoo last week, to back it up with a loss would feel like a serious case of one step forward, two steps back. Maybe even three steps back. Win and the Warriors surge forward with confidence to a home game with Manly, lose and they’ll sink to the depths of the ladder once again.

For what it’s worth, I think we might sneak this one, but that confidence probably comes more from a potentially misguided belief that it’s too early in the season to be dealing with another wipeout. Too early to be wondering where that next win might be coming from. Energy levels will be key — when the Warriors lifted their defensive intensity last week, they looked a class above the Knights. When they went through the motions, Newcastle looked more than capable of an upset. Now that this Warriors outfit has tasted victory, it’s time for them to show how much they want it, time to string a few sets together, carve through the competition and experience that killer rush as they barrel through the waves on the #RoadToTheTitle.

MATCH DETAILS

Central Coast Stadium

Gate Opening Time: 9.30am (local, 11:30am NZ time)

NYC kick off: 9.40am (11:40am NZ time)

NSW Cup (Wyong v Canterbury): 11.40am (1:40pm NZ time)

Main Game Kick Off: 2pm (4pm NZ time)

FLASHBACK

Let’s hope we get a game as exciting as this one on Sunday afternoon!

TEAMS

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 Simon Mannering

12 Ryan Hoffman (c)

13 Albert Vete

Interchange

14 Jazz Tevaga

15 Sam Lisone

16 Charlie Gubb

17 Konrad Hurrell

Roosters

1 Latrell Mitchell

2 Daniel Tupou

3 Brendan Elliot

4 Blake Ferguson

5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall

6 Jayden Nikorima

7 Jackson Hastings

8 Sam Moa

9 Jake Friend (c)

10 Dylan Napa

11 Mitchell Aubusson

12 Aidan Guerra

13 Sio Siua Taukeiaho

Interchange

14 Isaac Liu

15 Kane Evans

16 Mitchell Frei

17 Eloni Vunakece

18 Abraham Papalii

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