Tough to Take

Honestly, I really don’t know what more there is to say. In what has rapidly become a miserable season, perhaps one of the most miserable in the club’s history, the loyal fans who turned out to Mt Smart Stadium on another wet evening, were yet again denied the chance to celebrate. It was a game that hadn’t seemed promising, and then suddenly seemed winnable, almost certain, before events, fate, wizardry, curses, the weather, the players — whichever of those you believe to be true — conspired against us. Another night that ended in disappointment. Another night that seemed to unfairly punish Warrior Nation’s loyal subjects.

Let’s not dwell on the events of Sunday evening for too long — it was a tough one to take after getting so close — so I’ll leave you with a few thoughts from the NRL Warrior desk and let you carry on with your day.

SET OF SIX

1) Simon Mannering, playmaker. I’m absolutely loving the Simon Mannering no-look pass to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. It’s a move that worked wonders against Souths, and again on Sunday afternoon. Mannering is generally seen as a hard-working tackle machine, but in a side that has lacked creativity all season, it’s nice to see that the old dog has learnt a few new tricks.

2) Where are the dummy-half runs? I’ve thought to myself a few times this season ‘We don’t seem to have anyone outside of the hookers who makes any metres from dummy half’, but up until now I hadn’t checked the statistics to confirm or disprove that statement. What I found was even worse than I had suspected. Outside of the number 9s, only two Warriors players are in double figures for dummy-half runs: RTS with 23 and Solomone Kata with 22 (and we all know where Kata makes those runs). Third is Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad with 7! Looking through the other clubs, it does seem like a bit of a lost art aside from a few key proponents (Jordan Rapana is arguably the best), but the Warriors are certainly the worst offenders. I remember it being such a useful weapon to follow up a fast play-the-ball with a dart in behind the ruck. Can anyone tell me why the Warriors have put this tactic in the holster?

3) RTS leading from the front. There’s been much criticism and discussion around whether RTS is the right man to captain the Warriors, and I’ve personally questioned his defensive abilities, his tactical awareness and the way he reads the game. However, it’s impossible to question his effort. Week after week he leads the team in most of the ball-carrying stats, often taking the most difficult runs of the set. Say what you like about the rest of his game, but RTS never shies away from responsibility, and that’s a valuable quality in a leader.

4) Johnson impacting the game despite being hesitant to run. When Shaun Johnson was named in the side, despite all the recent struggles, a part of me always believed the Warriors could win. The club’s record without Johnson over the past few seasons is awful, and the attack has looked incredibly one-dimensional while he’s been on the sidelines. He certainly didn’t seem 100 per cent fit out there, which may explain his reluctance to run the ball, but still had a major impact on the game, largely through his boot. It’s something that’s often glossed over, but Johnson’s kicking game has improved out of sight, to the point where it is a real weapon.

5) Tom Trbojevic is an excellent player. Watching the game live, and then again on replay, it felt like Tom Trbojevic wasn’t having the best of nights. He made a few errors, was caught out of position on a couple of occasions and just generally didn’t look like he was having a good time. But even on an off night, he produced enough magic to set up two tries — one for Dylan Walker and the other for himself. He’s always lurking around the ball-carrier or running a line for an offload, plus he’s got lightning speed and is big enough to be a forward. At only 20 years old, Tommy Turbo has a massive future in the NRL.

6) Dreadful crowd numbers. The Warriors have an incredibly passionate diehard fan base. These members turn out rain or shine (it’s felt like mostly rain in 2017) no matter how bad the team is playing. But any potential buyer has got to be wary of just how awful the crowd numbers have been this season. The crowd figure on Sunday was announced at just over 9000, but in truth it seemed more like 4000. Not once has there been a crowd over the 14,000 mark, and the best attendance figure at Mt Smart this year would have ranked ninth in 2016. Throw in last season’s games in Christchurch and Wellington, which were both over 18,000, and the numbers look even worse. We all know what will bring the fans back — producing a better brand of football, but mainly more wins on the scoreboard — but it’s alarming when you talk to fans who’ve been members since day 1 and they tell you that they can’t take any more. The 2017–18 offseason will be full of soul searching once again, but the management at the club needs to find some answers, and find them soon, or things threaten to get even worse.

FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

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