There’s no way around it. Last night the Warriors copped a shellacking at the hands of a rampant Melbourne Storm. Yet whilst a 50-10 scoreline never looks pretty, and the temptation is there to curl up in the foetal position, it’s far from doom and gloom in 2018.
For any team on a five day turnaround – hard on the heels of a mammoth defensive effort – the contemplation of a trip to Melbourne will never be a preferred option. Yet whilst the Melbourne Storm of this season could previously be viewed as a little hit and miss, last night they clicked for the first time since the departure of Cooper Cronk. They would have beaten any other side comfortably last night, with everything going right for them in the first half.
The nature of the NRL competition is such that rogue results can happen. As an example, five weeks ago the Parramatta Eels were flogged 54-0 by Manly. Last week, the Eels turned that into a 44-10 win against the same side, a side albeit ravaged by infighting, stupidity and finger pointing.
In saying that, the tackling technique of the Warriors last night in the first half left little to be desired, with a few players resembling human turnstiles as they clasped at thin air. In all reality, and with his side already under the pump, the writing was on the wall as soon as Issac Luke hobbled off halfway through the first half. If he’s out for six weeks as projected, that is a massive blow to the Warriors.
Mason Lino has been praised (and rightly so) for a couple of very good performances, but calls for him to replace Shaun Johnson in the halves are wildly off the mark. Where Johnson has improved in defence markedly across the past two seasons, Lino’s current scragging technique leaves a lot to be desired. He looked sharp at times off the mark, but Lino has – until the last fortnight anyway – never looked like a consistent first grader, let alone a replacement for the Warriors chief playmaker. This sort of judgement call can only be considered if Lino strings together a sequence of top grade performances, and last night’s effort was not one of them.
But there are positives.
For a start, the Warriors are still six from eight for the season, and sit alone in second place on the ladder. And whilst they’ve just had to play on the back of a five day turn around, they now have ten days to recuperate before they face the Tigers back at Mt Smart. They’ll then remain in familiar surroundings to face the Roosters at home the following week, before travelling to Parramatta on the 18th May.
The Warriors could also potentially welcome back Shaun Johnson, James Gavet and Tohu Harris (who has had a huge impact at both ends of the park in 2018) with open arms.
But perhaps most importantly, the Warriors of 2018 look a different psychological beast from previous seasons. They appear to have more steel than has been displayed in the recent past, and whilst you could almost guarantee instant capitulation with previous outfits, the current squad seems to have more mettle than that. How they bounce back from last night’s smacking will be a true test of their character, but the bottom lip factor of previous nightmares is unlikely to factor this time around.
So, sit back and create your own breathing circle Warriors fans – now is not the time for panic.
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