Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.
On Saturday night, at the home of rugby league in New Zealand, I spoke ill of people whom I have never even met before. I used curse words on multiple occasions and I may have even taken the Lord’s name in vain. I said some things I now regret, although it is not likely my words were heard by Gavin Reynolds, Chris Sutton or Luke Patten.
I lost my temper, Father, but at the time I felt wronged. It felt like these people were conspiring against me, against our boys, against our country. If it makes it any better, it wasn’t just me — there were another 16,000 people booing and shouting. It wasn’t fair, Father. Why were they allowed to hold down for so long in the tackle but not us? Why did the bunker have to stick its nose in where it didn’t belong? And what was that for, ref? C’mon, they’re offside!
I just wanted to see a fair fight, for the men from Mt Smart to be given the opportunity to go to battle on a level playing field. It felt like a winnable game, an important game. A game in which the fans deserved to witness a close contest, an exciting match filled with drama. But, instead, I left Mt Smart feeling angry and disillusioned, as if I had not even been at the rugby league, but was a character in some kind of cruel candid camera scene where all the decisions kept going the wrong way and I couldn’t understand why. I didn’t see how I could ever forgive these men with the whistles for what they had done.
Now that I’ve had time to cool off, to simmer down, to think about my actions and review my behaviour, a part of me is still annoyed. Solomone Kata made it out of the in-goal. You saw it, didn’t you, Father? It was such a crucial moment in the match, how could they overturn the original decision?
But time has given me the gift of hindsight. I see now that we cannot shift all the blame. I realise that the Warriors still had plenty of chances to win, that there were opportunities to seize control, if we were good enough to take them, and that we must be responsible for our actions. You probably know what I’m going to say, don’t you, Father? We dropped too much ball. Yes, I can admit that. We lacked discipline.
Manly beat us through the middle of the park and played with much more energy on defence. We showed signs, Father, that we could resurrect our chances, that we could overcome and prevail. Perhaps that added to the frustration, but it appears it was not meant to be.
I think I’m nearly done, Father. I thank you for your time. Please assign whatever penance you deem appropriate. I had hoped that talking about this would make me feel better, that in the act of absolving my sins I may rid my soul of the frustration, that I may feel rejuvenated and free. But in reality all I feel is emptiness, a realisation that another weekend has passed without the two points.
I hope you will forgive me, Father, but I wonder if maybe it felt better when there was someone else to blame?
SET OF SIX
1) The Kata decision was so crucial to the outcome of the game. As much as I don’t think the Warriors did enough to win that contest, the way that play unfolded was bordering on farcical. After the men from Mt Smart had worked themselves back into the match during the latter part of the first half, it was important they retained the momentum at the start of the second 40. Instead, after a great effort from Solomone Kata to get out of the in-goal, some combination of the on-field referees and the officials in the bunker decided on a line dropout. Manly scored from the ensuing set of six to take an 18–6 lead and the Warriors never really recovered.
2) I’m starting to worry about Andrew McFadden. I really don’t want to go down this path. It frustrates me just to be discussing it — the Warriors had a full offseason to decide whether or not Cappy was the man for the job — but things aren’t quite going to plan. And when that happens, it’s inevitable to find yourself questioning McFadden’s decisions. What are we doing with the bench? Why does it seem like he’s decided Tui Lolohea isn’t ready to play in the halves yet? When our strongest ball-runner, Manu Vatuvei, is out injured, why is someone like Konrad Hurrell sitting on the bench? Why is there no kick pressure, week after week? It’s a painful place to steer the conversation, but unfortunately there’s only so long that these results can continue before the external voices calling for Cappy’s head will get too loud to ignore.
3) In saying that, the amount of press about ‘terrible Warriors’ and ‘What’s wrong with the Warriors’ is just madness. It certainly wasn’t a vintage performance, but it feels almost irresponsible for the media to last week be borderline euphoric and then be so depressed this week. There’s no denying there were too many errors and some silly penalties, but they certainly didn’t get the rub of the green, and I’d argue that was actually one of their best defensive displays of the season, particularly inside their danger zone.
4) Am I crazy to think that? In the first half, especially the first 20 minutes, Manly dominated possession and territory, but the Warriors went into the sheds only 12–6 down. They scrambled well throughout the match, made a number of last-ditch tackles and, although almost every try the Sea Eagles scored seemed preventable, for the majority of the game Manly made metres up the middle of the park but struggled to break the line. It feels odd to be praising a defence that conceded 34 points, but there were some encouraging signs.
5) Shaun Johnson is absolutely copping it. Are people that upset with him expanding his media presence? Yes, we’d all love him to run the ball more, zigging and zagging his way past defenders, but aside from that, I thought he played fairly well on Saturday night. His short kicking game in the first half was excellent, forcing a number of repeat sets, and he made a few really nice reads on defence, including a big one-on-one hit on Dylan Walker. He could do with getting a few more touches and demanding the ball in the attacking half, but calls for him to be dropped to NSW Cup are just ridiculous.
6) Does Thomas Leuluai’s return spell the beginning of the end for Jeff Robson? Andrew McFadden had stated the plan was to ease Leuluai back into the side, but did Leuluai play well enough to force McFadden’s hand?