No Surprises

We should have seen this coming. Wet weather (the understatement of the year), early season Warriors and a Storm side who’ve been controlling the ruck since the beginning of time. If the dreadful forecast wasn’t enough to dampen your spirits, Cameron Smith kicking on the fourth tackle of the game should have been a strong indication that Friday night wasn’t going to be much fun for the almost 10,000 hardy souls who braved the conditions at Mt Smart Stadium. After a brief display of Warrior-ball, the match settled into a grind, against precisely the team you don’t want to be involved in a grind with, and Melbourne executed their gameplan far more efficiently than the men from Mt Smart.

While at times it felt like the Storm were the bully in the swimming pool, constantly overpowering the weaker Warriors and holding them down under the water so they had to fight for every breath, the men from Mt Smart should take encouragement that they had enough opportunities to come away with the two points. If Solomone Kata scores at the 55-minute mark, who knows how far that might have swung the momentum.

But, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we got about what we expected. Melbourne are a better side than the Warriors.

Let me say that again:

Melbourne are a better side than the Warriors.

I hope that statement isn’t accurate by Round 26, but in Round 2, it’s most certainly the case. And, in a strange way, it’s quite liberating to admit it. The Storm have simple tactics, based around targeting your weaknesses and capitalising the minute you let your guard down. They’re led by a handful of outstanding players who set the tone and tempo for the rest of the team. Go on, Warrior Nation, admit it to yourself, the Storm are the better side. Because once we can accept that, and appreciate it, only then can we go about changing it.

SET OF SIX

1) It’s only Round 2. I’ve read a lot of negativity since the conclusion of Friday night’s game and, while it doesn’t surprise me, it’s incredibly important to realise that we’re only two weeks into a 26-week season. The Warriors scraped a win against an energetic Knights squad in Round 1 and went down to a clinical Storm side in Round 2. There are high expectations placed on this club, and justifiably so, but let’s give it some time. Coach Kearney tells me we’re on a journey and, if a premiership is the destination, we’ve barely finished the safety briefing. Hopefully the ‘Fasten Seatbelt Sign’ is turned off soon and we’ll be free to safely move around the cabin and enjoy the entertainment without the threat of turbulence, but, until then, let’s just sit tight.

2) For the second week in a row, the Warriors were flat to begin the second half. Now that is something to be legitimately concerned about. After a tight first 40 minutes, the Storm noticeably increased their tempo after the break and the men from Mt Smart either couldn’t or didn’t respond quickly enough. A 12–10 deficit became 18–10 in a matter of minutes, and Melbourne never looked back. Is it fitness? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s mental? Hard to tell from the outside. Whatever it is, let’s hope it doesn’t continue for much longer.

3) The goal line defence has been encouraging. The Warriors may have conceded 26 points at the weekend, almost all of them avoidable, but the way they defended their line, particularly as the Storm hammered away just before halftime, should give them great confidence that they can reach the defensive level they need to get to. The communication and the commitment looks much improved from last season, and if they can continue that as the season moves on, they should remain in games long enough to find opportunities to secure the two points every week.

4) More Jordis Unga please. Halftime entertainment can’t have been easy in those conditions, but Jordis brought the enthusiasm and delivered the best 10 minutes at we’ve had over oranges at Mt Smart since Savage and Timmy Trumpet brought the house down in 2015.

5) Why does everyone keep falling for the same old Storm tricks? I feel like they’ve had the same gameplan for as long as they’ve been in the competition, but it still works. I hate to poke old wounds, but, apart from one being in the air and the other along the ground, it’s amazing to look at the similarities between Melbourne’s first try on Friday night and that at the same venue in 2016. In both clips, Shaun Johnson finds himself isolated and helpless against on-rushing Melbourne attackers. Should we have planned for this one in the video room? Or is Cooper Cronk just too good?

2016 (25 seconds in):

2017 (25 seconds in — spooky . . .):

6) Let’s see a little more creativity on attack. Friday’s torrential downpour wasn’t exactly conducive to expansive football, and it is only Round 2, but the Warriors will need to pull a few more tricks out of their bag if they plan on breaking down the best defences in this competition in the weeks ahead. Something we’ve seen very little of is the halves playing off each other, switching to the same side of the field and passing to each other — Keary and Pearce, and Townsend and Maloney have used this to good effect so far this season — or multiple players running multiple angles to create doubt in the defensive line. I’m no coach, but I’m fairly confident giving it to Shaun Johnson and hoping he creates something out of nothing won’t work often enough to be a factor come September.

FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

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