Warriors fans are reeling after Friday night’s grim 36-4 loss at Panthers Stadium. But a week is an eternity in rugby league and Stephen Kearney’s humbled squad shape as a dangerous opponent for the Broncos this Sunday.
This week we take a look at the Warriors’ best zero-to-hero efforts.
TWL TOP 10 – WARRIORS’ BEST ONE-WEEK TURNAROUNDS
10. 2018 v Tigers
A feature of the Warriors’ watershed 2018 campaign to date has been their ability to hit straight back after a loss, managing to avoid back-to-back defeats until Round 17.
Stephen Kearney’s rejuvenated side put their heaviest defeat of the season – a 50-10 hiding at the hands of Melbourne on Anzac Day – in the rearview-mirror with an authoritative 26-4 win over in-form Wests Tigers in Auckland.
Shaun Johnson had a field day down the Tigers’ left edge before replacement dummy-half Karl Lawton sealed the result with a late double off the bench.
— NRL (@NRL) May 5, 2018
9. 2016 v Broncos
The Warriors’ ordinary record at alternate New Zealand venues bit them hard once again when they hosted Canberra at New Plymouth’s Yarrow Stadium. Coach Andrew McFadden questioned his charges’ commitment after a dismal 38-12 defeat, the contest virtually over by halftime as the Green Machine raced to a 22-0 lead.
But a rejigged line-up atoned in their next hit-out, kicking off a trademark mid-season charge with a thumping 36-18 win over third-placed Brisbane at Mount Smart Stadium. Fullback Tui Lolohea claimed man-of-the-match honours, Solomone Kata scored a barnstorming 50-metre try and David Fusitu’a notched a sizzling double as the Warriors’ youth brigade came to the fore.
8. 2014 v Bulldogs
The axe came down on Warriors coach Matt Elliott after an insipid 37-6 loss to the Sharks, who went on to finish with the wooden spoon, just five rounds in the 2014 season.
Assistant coach Andrew McFadden stepped into the hot-seat and his team came agonisingly close to marking the start of his tenure with a stirring win. The Warriors led eventual grand finalists Canterbury with five minutes to go at Eden Park but a controversial penalty and a late Trent Hodkinson field goal sunk the hosts 21-20.
While it wasn’t a win, the quality of the performance changed the momentum of the Warriors’ season. They won 10 of their last 17 games before falling just short of reaching the finals.
7. 2008 v Panthers
The Warriors’ late bid for a top-eight finish was rocked by a 34-6 belting from the Dragons in Round 24. That left the Auckland-based club needing to win its remaining two games and hope other results fell its way to qualify for the finals.
The Warriors completed one part of the equation a week later with a superb 42-20 bounce-back victory over Penrith at home. They stormed to a 30-4 halftime lead against a Panthers side that was still in playoffs contention heading into the match. Manu Vatuvei bagged a double and Michael Witt booted seven from seven.
A big win over Parramatta in the last round and Brisbane’s defeat of Newcastle saw the Warriors nab eighth spot.
6. 2000 v Eagles
The club suffered its heaviest loss of Auckland Warriors era courtesy of the St George Illawarra Dragons, humiliated 54-0 at WIN Stadium. Amos Roberts set a new premiership record for points on first-grade debut with 22 from a try and nine goals.
It capped a horror fortnight for the Mark Graham-coached side at the hands of joint venture opponents, having been pumped 30-4 at home by Wests Tigers in the previous round. But the Warriors showed some elusive resolve to overcome another merged entity.
After Ali Lauiti’iti was controversially sent off for a high tackle on the stroke of halftime (he was later exonerated), the 12-man Warriors courageously held on for an 18-14 win over Northern Eagles at Brookvale Oval.
5. 2004 v Raiders
Finalists from 2001-03 under Daniel Anderson, the Warriors’ harrowing decline in 2004 reached its nadir when the coach quit in the wake of a 58-6 beatdown from Sydney Roosters – the second-worst defeat in the club’s history to that time.
Tony Kemp stepped into the breach and four days later the embattled side pulled off a gutsy 20-14 win over visiting Canberra. The Warriors trailed 14-6 in the second half but tries to Francis Meli, Lance Hohaia and Richard Villasanti spurred them to an unlikely triumph.
But that backs-to-the-wall spirit can only last so long and caretaker Kemp’s charges only won two of their remaining 12 games to finish second-last.
4. 2014 v Titans
The Warriors performed a 76-point turnaround late in the 2014 season to keep their top-eight hopes afloat. Torn apart 46-12 by defending champs Sydney Roosters in front of their biggest home crowd of the season, the Warriors returned to Mount Smart seven days later and whipped Gold Coast 42-0.
Fullback Sam Tomkins crossed for two tries while Shaun Johnson racked up 18 points from a try and a seven-from-seven effort off the tee. But after leading 30-0 at halftime the Warriors’ scoring rate decelerated – which proved critical as they missed out on the finals by an agonising 13 for-and-against points a week later.
3. 2016 v Dragons
The fallout from the Warriors’ 42-0 Anzac Day thrashing in Melbourne intensified in the wake of an ill-advised night out back in Auckland. Manu Vatuvei, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson, Sam Lisone and Albert Vete admitted mixing prescription medication with energy drinks and were suspended for one match.
Consequently, the patched-up Warriors went into the following round’s clash with bogey side St George Illawarra as rank outsiders. But with Toafofoa Sipley on debut, John Palavi recalled for his first NRL game in two years, and Shaun Lane and Sione Lousi making their only top-grade appearances of the season, the Warriors stunned the Dragons 26-10 at Mount Smart.
David Fusitu’a, playing at fullback for the first time at NRL level, was a resounding man of the match, while halfback Shaun Johnson also starred in one of the gutsiest wins in the club’s history – and the end of an 11-match losing streak against the Saints.
2. 1995 v Bulldogs
The Auckland Warriors had dreams of debut-season finals grandeur after piecing together a six-match winning streak during a marshmallow-soft section of the draw. But the fledgling club received a brutal reality check in Round 19 courtesy of a Gorden Tallis-led 47-14 drubbing meted out by St George in front of a shell-shocked 28,973-strong Ericsson Stadium turnout.
The Warriors responded superbly, however, producing their best performance of ’95 to blast the Bulldogs away 29-8 at Parramatta Stadium. The 19-year-old Stacey Jones was the star of the show but the enduring memory is of a rampaging Willie Poching, who came off the bench in one of only two top-grade appearances for the club to score a try and set up another for Phil Blake.
Auckland lost its last two regular-season games to miss the playoffs on points differential; the Bulldogs won their next six in a row – culminating in a grand final triumph over Manly.
1. 2013 v Knights
The Warriors suffered their worst-ever defeat at Penrith in Round 10 of 2013, crashing 62-6 at the hands of the Panthers. It was Warriors coach Matt Elliott’s first visit to the ground since he was dumped by Penrith midway through 2011, while the Warriors’ torment was exacerbated by five-eighth cast-off Isaac John scoring a hat-trick and former Mount Smart favourite Lewis Brown bagging a double for the Ivan Cleary-coached Panthers.
The 2-8 Warriors were at rock bottom but they staged a remarkable revival the following weekend with a 28-12 home victory over a Newcastle side that went on to reach the preliminary finals. The Knights led 12-10 at halftime but blinders from back-rowers Feleti Mateo and Elijah Taylor inspired the Warriors to a morale-boosting win.
The result kick-started a giant-killing mid-season run of seven wins in eight games that included the scalps of eventual grand finalists Manly and Sydney Roosters, and defending premiers Melbourne.