When you imagine your life and where it will take you, what do you see?
For me the answer isn’t easy — many of the destinations change regularly — but when I picture 30 September 2018, there’s only one place that I dream about: ANZ Stadium.
The big dance. The main event. It’s where we all want to be. It’s why we travel this path all season, why we sit in the cold on a Sunday afternoon and shout at Ben Cummins to blow a penalty. It’s a place that can appear distant at times, but one that will always keep us longing to get there.
When Penrith ran riot without their Origin stars, finals football felt like a foreign land. But when the Warriors responded at Suncorp, ANZ re-emerged on the horizon. Maybe, we thought. Maybe this is our year.
And as time ticked away on Sunday afternoon, ANZ felt as though it were creeping closer. After one try a piece within the first 7 minutes, the game had turned into a grind — one special moment could win it for either side. I could picture the magic about to happen.
But it never came.
There were chances. The effort was impressive, but, in the key moments, the men from Mt Smart weren’t quite able to add the finishing touches, not quite able to make the most of their opportunities. Sometimes that’s the way it is. You give it everything, but you’re not quite good enough to get the result you want.
Once again that picture of the big dance faded further away, but if there’s one thing Warrior Nation knows how to do, it’s keep the faith. So that’s what we’ll be doing, for the remaining six rounds and hopefully beyond, until the light towers switch off for the final time in 2018.
SET OF SIX
1) Plenty of positives. Coming into the match, Melbourne had won five straight and arrived at Mt Smart at full strength. They’re the reigning premiers and 2018 title favourites, and the Warriors were missing arguably their two most influential players in Blake Green and Tohu Harris, yet this game was up for grabs right until the final whistle. It felt like a playoff match, with neither side quite able to break down the other. The Storm were the more clinical, as they tend to be once they poke their noses in front, but if the Warriors can bottle that feeling and maintain those levels for the remainder of the regular season, they’ll be well equipped to handle whatever is thrown at them come finals time.
2) Why is the double movement rule so difficult for players to understand? I’m sure it’s incredibly tempting to reach out when you’re so close to the line, but surely the players know that they can’t promote the football once their ball-carrying arm hits the ground. It seems crazy even as I’m writing it, but I think you can make a reasonable argument that if Anthony Gelling hadn’t reached out against Cronulla and Solomone Kata hadn’t done the same on Sunday against the Storm, the Warriors would be 4 competition points better off right now.
3) The NRL needs to take more responsibility for the refereeing problems. Has there ever been a year where refereeing blunders have been in greater focus? There’s certainly no excuse for a referee or touch judge missing a blatant forward pass or infringement, but I think the NRL needs to make more of an acknowledgement that the directives coming from above are part of the problem. Interpretations change from week to week, and the way certain rules are being adjudicated now is vastly different to how they were being adjudicated when the season began. How can anyone — referees, players, coaches, fans — expect to maintain their balance when the ground keeps shifting beneath their feet? The more we can take interpretation out of the game and make the rules clear for everyone, the better.
4) What an impressive collection of wingers we had on display. Much has been said about David Fusitu’a and Ken Maumalo all season and they were at it again on Sunday afternoon, with Big Ken in particular looking as damaging as ever with ball in hand. On the other side, both Storm wingers give you the impression that they could go the length of the field to score at any moment. Watching those four go at each other for 80 minutes was one of the afternoon’s highlights.
5) Very charitable. The players might have been a little too charitable at times when it came to holding on to the football, but huge credit should go to the entire club for raising over $70,000 for charity. It’s initiatives and moments like Sunday that highlight the power that sport has to bring people together and aid communities, and that’s something that deserves high praise.
6) Edging closer to full strength. This week the Warriors look set to welcome back Tohu Harris and Blake Green, and possibly even Leivaha Pulu. Over the past few rounds, the niggles have been piling up and so have the line-up changes as a result. As we approach the business end of the season, settling on a top 17 and keeping them healthy might be the most important factor that determines to how deep the Warriors can go in 2018.
Photo by Maurício Mascaro from Pexels