As Isaiah Papalii touched down for the first time in his NRL career, a spark ignited in my brain. Maybe it was the cold air restricting blood flow to my vital organs, but for a split second I thought I was onto something revolutionary, something that could change the game of rugby league, and in turn the direction of the New Zealand Warriors, forever.
It’s 4pm on Sunday 11 September and the sun decorates Mt Smart Stadium with light as we huddle together in our seats. The field is all but empty; isolated security guards dot the corners while cheerleaders fan out from the home tunnel in V-formation. The scene looks quiet, a calm before the storm you could say, but the turf is the only silent part of this ground — a constant, excited murmur is sporadically interrupted by bursts of raucous cheering as each new name from the team list is announced on the big screens at either end.
There are the inevitable boos as the opposition emerges, but the background hum of chatter returns quickly as the sweet sound of drums prompts Warrior Nation to rise as one.
On a night when Joseph Parker became the number one contender for the IBF crown, it was the Canberra Raiders who landed a massive body blow to the Warriors’ finals hopes. As Mt Taranaki watched on, the men from Mt Smart sunk to new lows in what is fast becoming a nightmare season.
There’s been some bad nights, some difficult 80-minutes so far this year, but I think the reason Saturday felt like such a cheap shot is because we were supposed to have hit rock bottom already — why on earth did we have to go back there again? Continue reading Low Blow
It’s not often that we, the inhabitants of Warrior Nation, can look forward to the weekend with absolute confidence. It’s the nature of the beast, of the path we have chosen, of the life we have committed to. At the start of each new season, we pull down the safety barrier, fasten our seatbelts and mentally prepare for take-off as the Warriors rollercoaster sets in motion. We know there’ll be ups and downs, and that, at times, we’ll need to hang on for dear life. We have to accept that we’ll never quite know what’s around the next corner, or what’s up ahead. But, once a year — or twice if the fixture-list-gods are kind — our journey visits the happiest place on Earth and for one day, be it afternoon or evening, we know that nothing can wipe the smile from our face. For one day we can be free of doubt, free of nerves — the only thing we have to worry about is getting some sleep the night before the game.