The Warriors have always been prone to a good hoodoo or two, with certain teams and venues proving impossible for the club to overcome regardless of the respective combatants’ positions on the ladder. Here’s the trends the Warriors should be aiming to reverse this season:
Taming the wild west
The Warriors will make the longest road trip in the NRL in Round 1, facing South Sydney in one half of a historic double-header at Perth’s shiny new Optus Stadium.
Like the Gold Coast, Perth has a massive Kiwi expat population that provides a de facto home-ground feel for the Warriors. Unlike playing on the Gold Coast, the Warriors have an appalling record in Perth – losing all nine games in the Western Australia capital since 1995.
The Auckland Warriors lost both games at the WACA against fellow ’95 entrants the Western Reds during the latter club’s brief existence. The New Zealand Warriors went down to Cronulla in the first Perth-hosted first-grade match in eight years, at Perth Oval (nib Stadium) in 2005, and have lost five subsequent clashes at that ground to the Rabbitohs (three times) and Manly (twice).
In perhaps their most agonising Perth defeat, the Warriors coughed up an 18-0 lead (for the second week in a row) against the Sea Eagles in 2012 in the only premiership fixture staged at famed AFL venue Subiaco Oval.
Down the Rabbitoh hole
Come March 10, the Warriors will also be aiming to end a six-match losing streak against Souths – after dropping just seven of the first 25 encounters between the clubs.
Three defeats from the current trot came in Perth, bookended by losses at Mt Smart Stadium in 2012 and ’16. The most recent meeting saw the Rabbitohs hop away to a convincing 36-18 win at ANZ Stadium late last season, the fifth straight game the Warriors had conceded 30-plus points in the rivalry.
With a Round 12 home clash against the myrtle-and-cardinal also on the schedule, it’s a mini-hoodoo that is crucial to snap in 2018.
Mercifully, the Warriors accounted for dual (and eventual) wooden-spooners Newcastle in Round 1 last year – the club’s first opening-week win since 2009.
But they are still Ian Herron-slow out of the blocks. Since their 2011 grand final season, the Warriors have not won more than three of their opening eight games, and – get this – they haven’t finished Round 8 with anything better than a 4-4 record since 2003.
This means year after year they’re automatically attracting early heat from fans and pundits, while leaving themselves with too much ground to make up in the last two-thirds of the season.
‘I thought youse were the New Zealand Warriors?’
Having Australian clubs consistently take their home games against the Warriors to other centres around New Zealand should be a massive advantage for the Auckland-based club – from a promotional standpoint and results-wise.
On the latter count, it’s proved anything but.
Brace yourself for this stat: the Warriors have played 28 games at New Zealand venues other than Mt Smart (17 as the official away team) and have come away with a record of six wins, one draw and 21 losses.
Here’s the city-by-city breakdown:
Wellington: Played 9 – Won 2, Drew 1, Lost 6
Auckland (non-Mt Smart): Played 6 – Won 1, Lost 5
Christchurch: Played 6 – Won 2, Lost 4
Hamilton: Played 4 – Lost 4
Taupo: Played 1 – Won 1
New Plymouth: Played 1 – Lost 1
Dunedin: Played 1 – Lost 1
That doesn’t bode well for their Round 14 ‘away’ showdown with Manly at Christchurch’s Rugby League Park (AMI Stadium), where they lost their only previous match to Penrith in 2016.
Manly’s best friend
While we’re at it, it would be bloody good to get a win over the Sea Eagles. That pesky bunch from Sydney’s northern beaches have won 13 of their last 14 against the Warriors, whose sole win during that period was a memorable 18-16 upset at Mt Smart in 2013.
The Warriors’ last away win over Manly was a famous, Stacey Jones-inspired comeback victory at Brookvale in 2009.
Winning without SJ
Shaun Johnson cops plenty for his supposed inconsistency, and a 44.76 percent NRL career win rate doesn’t reflect particularly well on an elite halfback. But the Warriors are a lost cause without their No.7 wizard, winning just two of 18 games when he’s been sidelined since his 2011 debut.
And while we’re hovering around the topic, the fact Johnson has only missed 18 games in seven seasons – 11 of those after suffering serious leg injuries in 2015 and ’17 – highlights the Warriors talisman’s underrated durability.
Slayed by the Dragons
The Warriors broke one of the great NRL hexes in 2016, halting an 11-match losing streak against St George Illawarra with a gutsy win at Mt Smart – despite axing Ben Matulino, Manu Vatuvei, Bodene Thompson, Sam Lisone and Albert Vete in the lead-up for their Red-Bull-and-tramadol rampage.
But the Warriors – 5-21 all-time against the joint venture – have won just one of 13 away games against the Dragons (at Kogarah Oval in 2003) and have come up empty in 10 visits to Wollongong.
Stephen Kearney’s charges produced their two most error-strewn performances of 2017 against the Saints in Sydney in Round 4 (lost 26-12) and Hamilton in Round 11 (lost 30-14).
There’s a Round 7 clash against the Dragons at home to contend with this year, before travelling to WIN Stadium in Round 21. History says don’t get your hopes up.
Playing the field goal
Shaun Johnson has kicked nine field goals in the past five seasons but the Warriors haven’t piloted over a deadlock-breaking one-pointer to win a game since 2009, when Stacey Jones sunk the Roosters in golden point.
In the interim the Warriors have lost five games by one point courtesy of a late field goal to the opposition. Gotta step up your clutch game, lads (no, not you Sam Lisone!).
Bogey no more?
The Warriors’ disproportionate success against the mighty Melbourne Storm is rightly a great source of pride for the club and its fans. They have won 16 and drawn two of 40 clashes with the Storm (the Roosters and Bulldogs are the only current clubs with a better win percentage against the heavyweights), and boast five wins and two draws from 19 visits to Melbourne (only the Bulldogs and Eels have a superior record).
But those stats would look even better if not for a recent slump: the Storm are currently on the first four-match winning streak by either side in the 20-season rivalry, and have won five of the last six at AAMI Park – including the last three in a row.
A familiar Anzac Day boilover in Round 8 over the defending premiers would be a massive early boost to the Warriors’ campaign, while there’s a home fixture against the Storm set down for Round 19.
Limping to the finish line
Here’s some late-season stats to make Warriors fans weep:
- The Warriors have not won a game after mathematically slipping out of the finals race since 2009, when they managed a Round 24 win over fellow also-rans Canberra – their only success of the final seven rounds.
- Since their 2011 grand final charge, the Warriors have won just eight of 43 games after the Origin period (18.6 percent).
- Their success rate dwindles even further during the last month of the competition, winning a pitiful three of 24 games in the final four rounds from 2012-17 (12.5 percent).
- Three times in the past six years the Warriors have lost their last eight matches, including 2017 when they set an in-season club record of nine consecutive defeats.
Hopefully new strength and conditioning guru Alex Corvo has a few tricks up his sleeve to keep the boys firing for longer…otherwise, buckle up for another soul-crushing July-August period.