This is the Moment

Remember this date: 16 April 2016. It’s a date we look forward to as I write these words, but one day — maybe later this year, next year or whenever Ryan Hoffman is lifting the Provan-Summons Trophy surrounded by Simon Mannering, Shaun Johnson and Co. — we’ll look back at this date with hindsight and remember that 16 April 2016 was the day when everything changed, when the Warriors released the shackles, went all-in on their season, all-in on their future and backed themselves to come up with the best hand.

With their season gradually slipping through their fingers, management has handed the keys to Warriors Nation over to the excitement of youth, set Tui Lolohea free and told Shaun Johnson to take control. They’ve thrown caution to the wind, given the most exciting players in the team the best opportunity to get the ball in their hands for the longest possible time and told them to give it everything they’ve got. Who knows, maybe we’ll even witness a Konrad Hurrell sighting for longer than just 20 minutes?

There’s no doubt that a change in the halves won’t solve everything. After being dominated up the middle by Manly last week, the Warriors’ forwards will need a much improved effort against the big dogs from Canterbury in order to get the two points. Those big boppers just keep coming — Tolman, Graham, Klemmer, Eastwood, Kasiano, Browne, the list goes on — so the Warriors’ pack needs to muscle up and at least achieve parity or the young hot-steppers will be on the back foot all night. With that in mind, the absence of Albert Vete is a surprising one, especially when you consider the value of including Hurrell on the bench if there’s no clear path to meaningful minutes.

On the other hand, the Bulldogs will be looking to follow in Manly’s footsteps and march up-field with ease. If they succeed, with Moses Mbye and Josh ‘Grub’ Reynolds in the halves and other attacking threats spread across the backline, they’ve got more than enough firepower to transform 16 April 2016 from a day of celebration throughout Warriors Nation into an evening the Kiwi side will want to quickly forget.

History, too, suggests the men from Mt Smart are up against it, with only 1 win from 8 attempts at Westpac Stadium, including a shambolic performance in 2015 against the Dragons that basically dashed all hopes of a finals footy appearance. And let’s not even mention Henry Perenara as the lead referee — oh, but we’ve done it now so let’s just say, you owe us one, Henry.

But now is not the time to think negatively. Now is the time to subscribe to the Free Tui movement, to throw our hopes and dreams on the table and truly believe that this is the moment, the one we’ll be looking back on and smiling about for years to come. It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Shaun Johnson and Tui Lolohea side-by-side, with Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck close behind. It’s a combination to get excited about, a combination that should strike terror into the opposition and breed confidence all throughout the Land of the Long White Cloud. This is the moment for the men from Mt Smart to play without fear, feel the rhythm within them, let it surround them, to reach out to everyone and bring a smile to the face of all within Warriors Nation.

We can be stronger, and the time is now.

FLASHBACK

‘Oh boy, he’s good’, but then Ed Sheeran returned to steal the show

TEAMS

Warriors

1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

2 Jonathan Wright

3 Blake Ayshford

4 Solomone Kata

5 David Fusitua

6 Tuimoala Lolohea

7 Shaun Johnson

8 Sam Lisone

9 Issac Luke

10 Ben Matulino

11 Bodene Thompson

12 Ryan Hoffman (c)

13 Simon Mannering

Interchange

14 Thomas Leuluai

15 Jacob Lillyman

16 Charlie Gubb

17 Konrad Hurrell

18 Ligi Sao

Bulldogs

1 Will Hopoate

2 Curtis Rona

3 Josh Morris

4 Kerrod Holland

5 Sam Perrett

6 Josh Reynolds

7 Moses Mbye

8 Aiden Tolman

9 Michael Lichaa

10 James Graham (c)

11 Josh Jackson

12 Tony Williams

13 Greg Eastwood

Interchange

14 Sam Kasiano

15 Tim Browne

16 David Klemmer

17 Adam Elliot

19 Lloyd Perrett

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