Taking Care of Business

The Warriors are an above average NRL team. Do those words get your pulse racing as quickly as mine? ‘Not really’, you say? They should. Try reading them again:

The Warriors are an above average NRL team.

Surely now the heart is beating a little faster? No? Still not doing it for you? Those words don’t sound overly flattering? I know, I know, sometimes above average doesn’t stand out. It doesn’t win you awards or get your face on a billboard. In most situations it doesn’t win you a premiership. And I know, I know, that’s what we all want. It’s why we arrive early to Mt Smart to watch the U20s and the ISP side. It’s why we buy our heritage jersey and think of clever things to yell at the touch judge. There are many other reasons why we love this game and why we joined Warrior Nation, but the lure of that premiership may well be the strongest thing keeping us here. There’s nothing quite like that winning feeling.

So when you clicked on this link maybe you were hoping to read words like ‘excellent’ or ‘outstanding’ after yet another win. That’s fair. The last time the Warriors were this close to title contention the All Blacks hadn’t won a World Cup for 24 years and Lance Armstrong was still a hero. Perhaps you were hoping to read a convincing argument about why ‘This is our year’. Sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not what’s about to follow. Not today anyway. But that shouldn’t diminish the power of what it means to be above average. How about if we try again, bigger and bolder:

The Warriors are an above average NRL team.

What if we go with ALL CAPS?

THE WARRIORS ARE AN ABOVE AVERAGE NRL TEAM.

How about symbols?

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Okay maybe that’s not quite so clear. But if you still need convincing, here’s a couple of stats for you. The Warriors are 3–4 against teams currently in the Top 8. Not that impressive. But Friday night’s win over the Cowboys extended their record to 7–0 against teams outside the playoff picture. That’s about as impressively above average as it gets.

So surely now you understand my excitement? The words ‘above average’ don’t need any dressing up, they are worth celebrating just as they are, in English:

The Warriors are an above average NRL team.

Spanish:

Los Warriors son un equipo NRL superior al promedio.

Or even Swahili:

Warriors ni timu ya juu ya NRL.

Because above average teams take care of business against the weaker ones. They win games when they aren’t at their best. They sit solidly in the top half of the ladder, just a rung down from those at the top. So it’s time to shout it from the rooftops, because being above average is actually an excellent thing to be. It could very well lead Warrior Nation all the way to the Top 4, and from there, anything could happen, maybe something quite special indeed.

SET OF SIX

1) What’s happened to the Cowboys? That was a gutsy win from the men from Mt Smart. They had only 42 per cent of possession, were second-best in almost all positive statistical categories, but still came away with the win. They withstood repeat sets and a few nervy moments, and held onto a crucial two points. But after further examination, it’s hard to ignore just how ineffective the Cowboys were. Jason Taumalolo aside, they threw very little at the Warriors. I never thought I’d say this about a team with Johnathan Thurston in the halves, but their attack was unimaginative, even predictable for the majority of that match. Unless something drastic changes, it’s hard to see the North Queenslanders winning many more games this season, which is a remarkable turnaround for a side that made it all the way to the Grand Final in 2017.

2) Welcome back RTS. Peta Hiku did an admirable job in cover for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, but wasn’t it great to see the skipper back. His improvement on defence this season has been one of the highlights for me, and his ability to make something out of nothing adds an extra dimension to the Warriors’ attack. Braith Anasta certainly enjoyed this moment:

3) Bad Gym Manner(ing)s. The following clips have nothing to do with the game, but if Simon Mannering does decide to retire at the end of the season, I think it’s fairly clear he should go into advertising. Stephen Fleming better watch out.

4) Line speed, or lack thereof. While the goal-line defence from the Warriors was impressive, the lack of line speed in the middle of the park was a concern. It’s been a symptom noticeable in all of their losses so far this season, and it’s something that they’ll need to improve on in the coming weeks. Too often, the Cowboys rode 60–80 metres downfield to attack the Warriors’ line and pile on the pressure. A better side may have made the Warriors pay.

5) Another shout out to Big Ken. I’m so thrilled that Ken Maumalo has earned a Kiwis call-up. Praising Big Ken is fast becoming a weekly event, but the fact that he’s gone from a work-in-progress to one of the most important players in the Warriors’ squad deserves serious acknowledgement. I’m aware that the Kiwis are without many of their front-line players through injury or unavailability, along with those who have chosen to represent the Pacific nations instead, but Maumalo’s inclusion in the Kiwis is just reward for his outstanding 2018 thus far (let’s not mention the tackle on Kyle Feldt . . .).

6) Call in the cavalry. Friday night’s win against the Cowboys was important for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that the Warriors will be without a number of regulars in Round 16 at home to the Sharks. It’s a game that starts a run of matches against sides destined for the playoffs, with the Sharks followed by the Panthers, Broncos and Storm. These are the fixtures that will likely determine whether the Warriors will hold onto a Top 4 spot or simply sneak into the 8, and they’ll need contributions from right throughout the NRL squad. With Solomone Kata and David Fusitu’a under injury clouds, Adam Blair suspended and Peta Hiku, Issac Luke and Ken Maumalo all on Kiwis duty, the likes of Karl Lawton, Anthony Gelling and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad look set for another opportunity to shine in first grade. Will they rise to the occasion?

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2 thoughts on “Taking Care of Business”

  1. I think all good for this year! Top 8 yes Top 4 even Better. It all starts again. What the boys have done this year is outright amazing. Lind them. Coz I have been since DAY 1

    Liked by 1 person

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