Late in the NRL season, sniffing around the top-eight and leaving your Finals hopes in the hands of referees. Sound familiar? It's another Aotearoa Warriors season in which hovering around a certain level of mediocrity results in losses like what we saw last weekend vs Parramatta Eels. While this thingy is definitely a bit of a reality check to the Warriors and fans, it's also flows into an enticing juncture for the club where the deja vu vibes are countered by a under current of solidarity.
When the game was in the balance vs Eels, it was Parramatta who were playing with momentum. More effective in their runs, enjoying dominance via territory and forcing the Warriors to rely on touches of magic to create chances. In the last 15 minutes, regardless of whatever the referees were up to, it was the Warriors who made their own bed. The Eels had fewer missed tackles, the Eels forced more drop outs, the Eels averaged 9.24m/run compared to the Warriors 8.2m/run and it was the Eels who were the aggressor.
This game in isolation follows the pattern of the bigger picture in which the Warriors lacked a killer instinct. They currently sit 12th - a position that club and fans know well - because of an absence of any pure winning vibes, having bumbled through what was a cluster of games that should have resulted in more wins had the Warriors been a legit top-eight group. It was somewhat admirable that the five games prior to the Eels loss, were decided by 4 or less points and that the Warriors did go 3-1-1 during that stretch.
All of those opponents are either in on either side of the top-eight gate, or below the Warriors. Hence it was a slightly easier stretch that needed to be pounced on, especially considering the run of games that will round off the season for the Warriors as they have one of the more difficult draws leading into Finals footy. Winning three games was cool, much needed in fact but through this pocket of games the Warriors were never overly dominant and much like the losses to Brisbane Broncos and Melbourne Storm at Mt Smart stadium prior to that pocket of games, there was little to suggest that the Warriors would ride a wave through the Finals.
The Warriors are limited, it doesn't feel like they have the upside of other teams and they instead rely on slices of luck or external factors to decide games at the moment. No Warriors forward beat the 10m/run mark vs Eels other than Sam Lisone, who did so via just 2 runs in 12 minutes. Stephen Kearney has the weirdest rotation in the NRL as he brings players on and off as if he changes his mind during the process; to the point where any calls for someone like Chris Satae to slide into the top-17 would just lead to Satae getting 10 minutes off the bench.
Satae had 19 runs for 256m (13.47m/run), with 3 line breaks and 10 tackles busts in the Canterbury Cup team's win over Wentworthville Magpies. Satae may appear in team list later today, but Satae may also never play for the Warriors NRL team again. None of this makes much sense and up to youz as to how you perceive this, in all my mystical glory though I am of the belief that you reap what you sow.
When no forwards are pressing the issue, you get what you deserve. Same when you're being overly cute in selecting teams and rotating players off the bench as there is no clarity in what you're doing. With such a dramatic emphasis on Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Ken Maumalo generating go-forward, everything feels a wee bit disjointed when Isaiah Papali'i averages 7.27m/run from 11 runs or Lachlan Burr averages 7.12m/run from 8 runs.
Nothing is aligned. Even if we take on this idea that such a heavy workload and reliance on the outside backs, keeps the forwards fresh for defence, there's not a whole lot of logic present. The Warriors aren't terrible at missing tackles, ranked 7th and yet that is the equivalent of their general ladder position. The Warriors are 6th in points conceded, averaging 20.9 points against each game and despite playing slightly weaker opposition, the Warriors conceded at least 18 points in every game of that 3-1-1 stretch.
I'm not super duper fussed by defence, it's important for sure and the best teams are good defensively. However the only clarity about this Warriors group at the moment are their defensive intentions, which doesn't actually manifest into anything on the field. More importantly, this plays into putting your best self forward to earn little slices of footy magic, to influence the referees by dominating the opposition, generating a tempo that the other team can't sustain etc.
Whether in attack, or defence the Warriors do little to put themselves in the best position. Not just with what they do on the field, but with the intentions, alignment and clarity of what the NRL team is up to. As I have consistently stated; there is no identity to this Warriors team and everything slither of bad luck or negative vibes, stems from that.
The Warriors are now on a 3-1-2, the reserves are on a 3-1 run and Jersey Flegg are 3-2. Both the reserves and Flegg team had wins, while there was also a low key win for the Future Warriors against the NSW Harold Mathews (Under 16) Champions Newcastle Knights. The reason why I'm not so down in the dumps by the immense mediocrity permeating from the NRL team and the stinky desire to blame others, is because there is a swell generating at the levels below.
It seems as though the Winds of Change are still drifting through Mt Smart. While there are great signs at the levels below the NRL, none of this is quite evident yet in the NRL group and hence I view this as an interesting juncture. Perhaps we see change in these last few weeks, perhaps we have to wait longer; nothing appears to have changed and yet everything appears to be changing.
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Peace and love 27.