What’s going on?

Twenty-one years and my team is still

Trying to climb that great big ladder of hope

To a Premiership title

I realised quickly that I’d always be loyal

That a few losses wouldn’t spoil my faith, uh huh

For the team called the Warriors

 

So I cry sometimes

And curl up in a ball

Just to calm myself down

When I can’t take it all

And I, I’m feeling a little frustrated

And when our line speed is slow

And we concede easy tries

I bow my head and look up to the sky

Then I, scream at the top of my lungs

What’s going on?

 

And I say, No, no, no, no

No, no, no, no, I said hey, when will they learn?

 

And I try, oh boy, how I try

To keep on smiling

And clap the team from the field

And I always defend them, oh boy, how I defend them

To my friends and family, uh huh

Always keeping the faith

 

So I cry sometimes

And curl up in a ball

Just to calm myself down

When I can’t take it all

And I, I’m feeling a little frustrated

When I wake in the morning and I check my phone

And see more off-field drama in the headlines

And I, sigh and start to groan

Then I, scream at the top of my lungs

What’s going on?

 

And I say, No, no, no, no

No, no, no, no, I said hey, when will they learn?

 

Twenty-one years and my team is still

Trying to climb that great big ladder of hope

To a Premiership title

 

Excuse the musical interlude, but I’ve read singing helps to regulate your breathing and promote relaxation — something we could all use in our current state of woe.

Right now, it’s almost impossible to believe that less than two weeks ago Warrior Nation was celebrating a win against a playoff contender. The Bulldogs victory wasn’t perfect by any means, but there were real signs that positive things could happen if the men from Mt Smart were able to find some consistency. They were fluent on attack and showed enough scramble and fight on defence to take the two points. It was three wins from four and the Top 8 was within reach.

Fast forward to today and you find a club that looks, from the outside at least, in full-on crisis mode. A 42–0 thrashing on Anzac Day was followed by six players breaking team protocol and, after a barrage of criticism across all media and a poorly-timed re-tweet, the Warriors find themselves going into Sunday afternoon’s match against the Dragons with an inexperienced lineup and large sections of the fan base at near breaking point.

[Side note: very poor timing for the six players to go out, and unacceptable for them not to adhere to team protocols— I’m as disappointed as anyone, especially if ends up being the final straw for Konrad Hurrell at the club— but do they really deserve the level of criticism they’ve received? They’ve let themselves, their team and the fans down by their actions given this weekend is such a crucial game, but there’s been no reports of any trouble or bad behaviour apart from staying out a little late on a school night and being late for a team meeting. I agree with the punishment — the players did something silly, have been reprimanded for it and now it is up to them to pick their socks up and demand re-selection. But the calls for across the board sackings seem a little ridiculous to me — would you get fired if you were late to a meeting at your workplace?]

It’s almost impossible to predict how the playing group will respond. On the plus side, we’ll get to see youngsters like Shaun Lane and Toafofoa Sipley eager to impress in their first outing for the club at the NRL level. Others, such as Matt Allwood, Jazz Tevaga and James Gavet, will want to prove they are more than just fill-ins. Lane, in particular, may have the most to gain after his in-season transfer from the Bulldogs. His departure from Belmore was curious given the praise he received in his debut season, and he’s without a contract for 2017 — a strong performance on Sunday could help cement his place in the top grade.

But how far can that enthusiasm take these young men from Mt Smart? When you throw in the recent injuries to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Tui Lolohea and Simon Mannering, the Warriors are without more than half their full-strength side on paper — can a team with that many changes really compete? And that’s not even mentioning their awful record against the Dragons (only 4 wins from 23 games).

This match is just filled with storylines. Will the Warriors come out firing? Or will they lay down and die? Can Andrew McFadden survive another loss? What about the return of Russell Packer, Siliva Havili and, to a lesser extent, Leeson Ah Mau? Could there be a late inclusion for Benji? And don’t forget, the Dragons are in turmoil too — Paul McGregor was arrested earlier this week!

Whatever your expectations for Sunday, there’s plenty of reasons to tune in. Get down to Mt Smart (or flick on your TV) early, as both the U20s and the NSW Cup side (filled with the naughty boys) are also on show.

MATCH DETAILS

NZ Warriors vs St George Illawarra Dragons, Mt Smart Stadium, Sunday 1 May

Gates Open: 9:30am

NYC Kick-off: 9:45am

NSW Cup Kick-off: 11:45am

NRL Kick-off: 2pm

FLASHBACK

Had to go way back in the archives and only found a snippet of enjoyment — there’s not many good memories against the Dragons!

TEAMS

Warriors (best guess as starting lineup has yet to be named)

1 David Fusitu’a

2 Jonathan Wright

3 Blake Ayshford

4 Solomone Kata

5 Matt Allwood

6 Thomas Leuluai

7 Shaun Johnson

8 Jacob Lillyman

9 Jazz Tevaga

10 James Gavet

11 Shaun Lane

12 Ryan Hoffman (C)

13 Charlie Gubb

Interchange

14 Issac Luke

15 Sione Lousi

16 John Palavi

17 Toafofoa Sipley

Dragons

1 Josh Dugan

2 Kalifa Faifai Loa

3 Euan Aitken (under fitness cloud)

4 Timoteo Lafai

5 Jason Nightingale

6 Gareth Widdop

7 Josh McCrone

8 Leeson Ah Mau

9 Mitch Rein (must pass concussion test)

10 Mike Cooper

11 Tyson Frizell

12 Joel Thompson (although he has been suspended so will be replaced)

13 Jack de Belin

Interchange

14 Russell Packer

15 Will Matthews

16 Dunamis Lui

17 Siliva Havili

18 Taane Milne

? Benji Marshall?

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