Notoriously slow out of the blocks, the Warriors have won a paltry five of their 21 games in Round 1 since entering the premiership in 1995 – a success rate of 24 percent.
Last year’s tight 26-22 win over dual (and eventual) wooden spooners Newcastle at Mount Smart Stadium snapped a mind-boggling streak of seven straight season-opening defeats. This weekend against South Sydney at Perth’s new Optus Stadium the Warriors are aiming for back-to-back Round 1 wins for just the second time in their history.
Remarkably, the last time the club achieved that modest feat came during Mark Graham’s troubled 1999-2000 coaching tenure, which garnered just 18 wins from 50 games.
The only other clubs to bat at less than 40 percent on the first weekend of the competition during that time are St George Illawarra (seven wins from 19 games) and Penrith (eight from 22). Meanwhile, after the Warriors’ breakthrough success against the Knights in 2017, Manly and Cronulla now boast the longest active Round 1 losing streaks at four games.
The Warriors’ horror seven-season sequence included twin thrashings from battlers Parramatta in 2013-14, a 10-point loss to the lowly Knights in 2015, and a demoralising defeat to Wests Tigers in 2016 that saw them down 28-4 at halftime.
Their previous success came in 2009 against the Eels – and crucially, last year’s clash against the Knights was their first Round 1 encounter at Mt Smart since. They hosted teams across town at Eden Park in 2011-12, while their subsequent four first-up assignments were in Australia.
The Warriors’ only Round 1 victory on the road came way back in 1999, a fiery 26-16 boilover against the heavyweight Sydney Roosters in Graham’s first game in charge.
Compounding the difficulty of the Warriors’ bid to erase 19 years of history is the damning stat that the club has lost all of their previous nine games in Perth, as well as their last six against the Rabbitohs at all venues.
A lack of defensive application has underpinned the Warriors’ Round 1 struggles: in 16 games since 2001, they haven’t conceded less than 18 points and have leaked 24-plus on 12 occasions. Naturally, they finished with the two competition points just three times.
Tardy starts have been critical to the Warriors’ failure to reach the finals in the past six seasons. The Warriors have won less than 40 percent of their pre-Origin period games since 2012, leaving them with too much ground to make up later in the year.
Reversing that trend – starting by knocking over rebuilding Souths – is imperative for Stephen Kearney’s side, particularly as the Warriors play seven of their first 12 games at Mount Smart, before facing a stretch of six games in eight rounds away from Auckland.
Melbourne Storm are Round 1 kings, winning 17 of 19 – including their last 15 straight – since joining the NRL in 1998. The Roosters (16 of 23), Brisbane (15 of 22) and surprisingly Newcastle (14 of 22) are the next most successful since ’95.
But teams that falter this weekend needn’t drop their bundle: just seven Round 1 winners have gone on to win the grand final since 2000 – with the Storm accounting for four of those.
WARRIORS’ ROUND 1 TALE OF WOE
1995: LOST 25-22 v Broncos @ Mount Smart Stadium
1996: Broncos forfeited Round 1 game v Warriors
1997: LOST 14-2 v Broncos @ ANZ Stadium
1998: LOST 24-18 v Rabbitohs @ Mount Smart Stadium
1999: WON 26-16 v Roosters @ SFS
2000: WON 14-6 v Storm @ Mount Smart Stadium
2001: LOST 24-8 v Raiders @ Mount Smart Stadium
2002: Warriors had Round 1 bye
2003: LOST 36-26 v Knights @ Mount Smart Stadium
2004: LOST 28-20 v Broncos @ Suncorp Stadium
2005: LOST 26-20 v Manly @ Mount Smart Stadium
2006: LOST 22-16 v Storm @ Mount Smart Stadium
2007: WON 34-18 v Eels @ Mount Smart Stadium
2008: LOST 32-18 v Storm @ Docklands
2009: WON 26-18 v Eels @ Mount Smart Stadium
2010: LOST 24-18 v Titans @ Skilled Stadium
2011: LOST 24-18 v Eels @ Eden Park
2012: LOST 26-20 v Sea Eagles @ Eden Park
2013: LOST 40-10 v Eels @ Parramatta Stadium
2014: LOST 36-16 v Eels @ Parramatta Stadium
2015: LOST 24-14 v Knights @ Hunter Stadium
2016: LOST 34-26 v Tigers @ Campbelltown Stadium
2017: WON 26-22 v Knights @ Mount Smart Stadium
TOTAL: Played 21 – WON 5, LOST 16; Points For – 398, Points Against – 519.