Everyone Wants the Warriors To Do Well. Do They Have a Shot?

Everyone Wants the Warriors To Do Well. Do They Have a Shot?

The New Zealand Warriors have sacrificed more than any other club to get the 2020 NRL season back underway. Recently arrived on the Central Coast after isolating for two weeks in Tamworth, the Warriors don’t know when they will be able to return to New Zealand.

For all the playing group and staff know, it will be September before they return home to their families.

As a club that appeals to players for its focus on families, this is the last thing anybody was prepared to deal with. Add long-term injuries to Leeson Ah Mau, Bunty Afoa, Jazz Tevaga, Jackson Frei and Adam Keighran as well as the NRL’s reluctance to allow the club to sign loan players, and it’s all looking pretty grim for the Warriors despite their most noble of intentions this season.

To make matters worse, the Warriors have a horrible record in Australia as it is. Going back to the beginning of the 2011 season – in which they made the Grand Final – the Kiwi club has won just 38 of their 108 games in Australia for a 35.1% winning rate.

Abysmal.

In New Zealand at Mt Smart Stadium, on the other hand, the Warriors have taken the chocolates in 55.7% of their games in the same period.

Something happens to the Warriors when they walk through the scanners at Auckland airport. No matter how much raw talent or promising form they send out onto the field after clearing customs, it rarely comes together well enough to win.

But, there is hope for everybody’s new second-favourite team.

In the short-term, anyway.

Nonetheless, teams can come together in times like these. The Warriors don’t really have a choice. With the rugby league world behind them and a promising – albeit brief – trend developing in how they perform in Australia over longer periods, the Warriors might surprise a few people in Round 3.

The Warriors decided in 2018 that it’s best to remain in Australia when they’re scheduled to be there in back-to-back rounds. Rather than fly back and forth and lose an extra day due to travel, the Warriors have adopted more of a camp-like feel to the two rounds of footy. The results, so far, offer a glimmer of hope for the next few weeks.

In the three back-to-back instances in 2018, the Warriors won five of the six games.

First, there was an incredible 20-19 win over the Raiders in Round 3 before thrashing the eventual premiers 30-6 in Round 4. A 36-4 loss to the Panthers in Round 17 is one of their worst performances in recent years, but they backed it up with an impressive 26-6 win over the Broncos at Suncorp a week later. Cbus Super Stadium is the venue for nine of the Warriors’ 38 wins in Australia since 2011; another 36-12 win over the Titans in Round 20 preceded their first victory against the Dragons at Win Stadium since 1996 in Round 21.

Playing with an inferior squad a year later, the Warriors still only dropped two of the six games played back-to-back with wins over the Dragons (26-18) and Panthers (30-10) in Round 9 and 10, a victory in Newcastle (24-20) and draw in Brisbane (18-18) in Round 16 and 17, and two thrashings at the hands of the Roosters (42-6) and Sharks (42-16).

So, in the 12 games since changing their travel arrangements, the Warriors have won at a 66.6% clip at 8-3-1. That’s quite the increase to their overall 35.1% in Australia since the beginning of 2011.

Living out of each other’s pockets with nothing but footy to focus on in the month building up to Round 3, the Warriors are coming out of the sort of camp, which recently, has produced excellent results.

The Warriors’ numbers across the first two rounds are a horror show, though.

They’ve conceded 20 points per game, only scored six points themselves (a penalty try), and are yet to register a linebreak in 160 minutes of football.

Their adjustment towards leaning on Roger Tuivasa-Sheck a lot more in good ball sets is very much a work in progress. With just one first-grade regular prop and a two-game rookie to lean on, the middle has become an increasingly worrisome area of the field for the Warriors. Their 1,461 running metres per game in Round 1 and 2 is already ranked down at 13th in the competition.

Nonetheless, teams can come together in times like these. The Warriors don’t really have a choice. With the rugby league world behind them and a promising – albeit brief – trend developing in how they perform in Australia over longer periods, the Warriors might surprise a few people in Round 3.

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