The Warriors are notorious for getting tangled up in a good hoodoo, with certain opponents, venues and periods of the season proving kryptonite-like for the enigmatic club.
A week out from the start of the 2018 premiership, This Warriors Life pinpointed the 10 jinxes the Warriors had to overcome to become a force again. Incredibly, the reborn side ticked off the first eight by early-June, waking fans from their superstitious nightmares.
But conquering their biggest and most infamous bugbear – the trademark late-season fadeout – will decide whether it’s a banner year for the club or another gut-wrenching false dawn.
Stephen Kearney’s super-fit charges vanquished a pair of frustrating demons in Round 1. The Warriors were winless in nine previous visits to Perth and had lost six straight to South Sydney but laid both streaks to rest with a rousing 32-20 upset.
The victory was just their second opening-round success in the past nine seasons and provided the perennially slow-out-of-the-blocks Warriors with a launching pad for their best-ever start to a season. After failing to craft anything better than a 4-4 record over the first eight rounds since 2003, the Warriors won their first five games.
Though Shaun Johnson had kicked nine career field goals heading into 2018, the Warriors hadn’t piloted over a deadlock-breaking one-pointer to win a game since 2009. In the interim the Warriors lost five games by one point courtesy of a late field goal to the opposition.
The No.7 wizard put paid to that obscure drought in dramatic style in Round 3, slotting two clutch field goals inside the final two minutes to steal a 20-19 win at Canberra Stadium.
Meanwhile, Johnson’s absences in previous seasons have usually meant a guaranteed L for the Warriors – they had won just two of 18 games without the halfback since his 2011 debut.
But with Mason Lino stepping into the breach spectacularly and a far more composed line-up picking up the slack, they knocked off heavyweights Sydney Roosters and St George Illawarra with Johnson sitting on the sidelines.
The latter victory – one of the greatest in the Warriors’ history, a 20-12 boilover against the previously undefeated Dragons – was just their second in their last 15 encounters with the joint venture.
Man did we enjoy slinging some numbers at the @NZWarriors 17 heroes after their 30-6 pummelling of the Sydney Roosters! #WarriorNation #ThisWarriorsLife #letsgoneMason #NRLRoostersWarriors https://t.co/EW2HPkej8x
— This Warriors Life (@thiswarriorslyf) March 31, 2018
— This Warriors Life (@thiswarriorslyf) April 20, 2018
The Warriors’ most baffling bogey is their inability to win at alternate venues in New Zealand. In 28 games on Kiwi soil other than Mount Smart Stadium prior to 2018, the Warriors had come up with a measly six wins and a draw.
That didn’t bode well for a Round 14 trip to Christchurch to take on the Sea Eagles, who had won 14 of their previous 15 against the Warriors – including the last seven straight. But the Warriors slayed both hoodoos with a highlights-stacked 34-14 result at AMI Stadium.
Best second half of the season https://t.co/RufE6Mys3s
— This Warriors Life (@thiswarriorslyf) June 9, 2018
Several of the aforementioned watershed wins tied into an amazing turnaround on the road this season. The Warriors won just one of 12 games away from Auckland in 2017 but currently boast an elite 7-2 record as the visiting team.
The only unflattering stat on This Warriors Life’s list the Warriors have been unable to reverse so far was a losing run at the hands of Melbourne – a heavyweight they have enjoyed disproportionate success against over the years. The Storm romped to a 50-10 win on Anzac Day and held the Warriors off 12-6 last Sunday to extend their recent dominance to six straight games, a record for the rivalry.
Melbourne is the NRL’s benchmark, though, so the dual losses were no cause for alarm.
But the fact the Warriors’ streak of streak-busting came to an end may spook the more irrational among us supporters when we revisit the last hoodoo on the list: limping to the finish line.
Here’s some late-season stats to make Warriors fans weep:
- 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.
Their choke against Wests Tigers at home in the penultimate round of 2016 when a finals spot was at their mercy, ultimately costing coach Andrew McFadden his job, still stings. So does the final-round 22-6 loss at Penrith in 2014 when a win would have been enough to secure seventh spot.
The Warriors currently sit eighth with a +4 points differential but they are well-placed just four points off the competition lead and four points ahead of ninth-placed Wests Tigers.
However, they need to win at least three of their last six games to guarantee a finals berth – no easy task for a club with a history of chronic August jitters.
The Warriors’ sizzling start to 2018 has allowed them to concentrate on the task at hand without worrying about slipping behind the competition’s pace-setters. But the walls will start to close in if they drop another game or two and the Tigers keep winning.
The stats paint a clear picture of where we've thrived this year, and what the challenge is for us over the final six games of the regular season.
— Wests Tigers (@WestsTigers) July 23, 2018
This Sunday’s road trip to take on the lowly Titans is must-win. Encouragingly, the Warriors have won 14 of the last 15 games between the clubs, including the last seven straight at Robina.
Then it starts to get trickier.
Round 21 brings an away assignment against the Dragons in Wollongong. The Warriors have lost 13 straight against the Saints away from Mount Smart and have never beaten them at WIN Stadium.
More winnable games over the following fortnight – Newcastle at Mount Smart, Canterbury at ANZ Stadium – could make or break their finals tilt.
The Warriors have two home games to finish the regular season – against a Penrith outfit that could be a very similar position, then an erratic Canberra side that may still be in the top-eight picture.
Will their history-defying feats continue to secure a long-awaited return to the finals, or will old habits seep back in when the blowtorch is applied? Either way, it’s going to be a white-knuckle ride over the next six weeks.