Robert Anderson is a Brisbane-based Warriors fan and long-time member of the club. Throughout 2020, he will share his memories and thoughts on his beloved team for This Warriors Life. Here’s the sixth edition of Robert’s ‘Warrior-Roo’ blog (find previous entries HERE):
What is an urban legend or an old wives’ tale? Basically it’s a story that gets handed down that may have an element of truth, or maybe no truth at all, but becomes greatly embellished to the point that it’s completely ridiculous.
One of the most frustrating parts about being an Australian Warriors supporter is having to listen to the media over here constantly spin out what I believe to be a bunch of old yarn about the club. In fact, the Aussie media largely ignores the team unless we happen to be killing it on the field…or more true of the last decade or so, underperforming. They love to get a boot about the same size that Bart Simpson copped Down Under and sink if firmly in. This ignorance or lack of interest in the team leads to guys like Greg Alexander, Braith Anasta, Mark Gasnier and ‘Blocker’ Roach to spin out the same lines about the team every week on FoxSports. I won’t even get into Channel Nine, as we’re that despised by the free-to-air broadcaster that we struggle to even get our mugs on primetime TV over here!
So let’s dissect some of these urban legends about the team and decide whether to give them a ‘Try’ or ‘No Try’:
Massive forward pack
OK sure, we’ve had our moments, and have had some fantastic metre-eaters – none better than Steve Price. Original big man ‘Smokin’’ Joe Vagana was a mountain of a man and widely recognised as the epitome of the Warriors’ ‘giant forwards’. Unfortunately, the popular big man played in our least successful era (1995-2000). But to be honest even in our glory years of 2001-2003 the pack was probably more on the skillful side rather than bullocking. This was reflected in the club being owned by the much more dominant packs of the Roosters in 2002 and Panthers in 2003. In 2011 Phil Gould labelled the rotation of Matulino, Rapira, Packer and Lillyman as one of the best in the game. Again, unfortunately all of those guys – none of them in the massive category anyway – seemed to hit the wall in 2012 and never really recovered. It just seems to be an automatic association with the club, but over the last five years the pack has been somewhat underwhelming…in size and performance.
Verdict – No Try
— Action Bailey (@Fathairylazy) April 26, 2020
The Harlem Globetrotters of rugby league is what we were branded back in 2002-2003. Not hard to see why with guys like Lauitiiti and Faumuina producing some unbelievable offloading, with the likes of Toopi and Meli dining out. The ability to chase quick points is also another attribute that we seemed to have acquired by the Aussies’ reckoning, too. OK, yes, during 2001-2003 we did have some unbelievable comebacks. But what have we done for you lately? Not much, to be fair.
Long gone are the days of being able to reel in 18-20 point leads, even when we had Shaun Johnson in the team. In fact, if anything it looks like we’re trying to be rebranded into the ‘Vanilla Storm’. You know, like the Melbourne variety, but with less firepower and much blander. We won’t make mistakes, but we won’t score any bloody points either. I once stayed in a shared excel spreadsheet too long at work and earned a reputation. I think the same thing is going on here!
Verdict – No Try
This one hits a little closer to home! Although I would suggest that keen viewers since 2011 would agree that we’re more of a 70-minute team. The true definition of heartache is leading a game all the way until the dying minutes and literally being screwed with no flowers or dinner. Andrew Voss always used to say that a Warriors game doesn’t even start until the final 10 minutes, and who would disagree! Even the games where we hang on and win are torture for the final 10. I think the 60-minute team thing might have come from the Australian media’s assessment of the Kiwis Test side and by default just carried over to the Warriors.
Verdict – Refs call…..Try
Yep, pretty hard to defend this one. There was a recent article that highlighted a period of 10 seasons where only Melbourne and Brisbane made the finals more than us. But when I think back to our last great consistent season we have to go all the way back to 2002. Even in the Cleary era of success in 2007-2008 and 2010-2011 we weren’t exactly a model of consistency, with each of those seasons featuring barren periods. In fact, I would argue that our 2011 season is a bit of a myth as we were only saved by the much-maligned McIntyre finals system, the same system that mercilessly punted us early the season before.
The 2018 campaign was one of the worst offenders, with a 5-0 start followed by a win-loss sequence basically continuing up to the final rounds. On the field, Peter Sterling often uses the word ‘loose’ to describe our style of play. Let’s face it, we’re no strangers to the coach killers and cardinal sins of giving a penalty away in possession, trying to play the ball too quickly, or not finding touch from a penalty kick. I reckon they might just have us on this one. Dammit, Blocker!
Verdict – Try
Players that are released come back to haunt the club
This is more of a social media stigma, although FoxSports do love to still talk about us in the same breath as Shaun Johnson (facepalm). And while we’re on the subject of the enigmatic former playmaker, I believe the verdict is still out. In my opinion he’s never been the same since Tom Symonds met his ankle in 2015. But with regards to other players that we’ve released over the years, I believe there are only two that went on to become genuine stars in Siosiua Taukeiaho (one first grade game for the Warriors in 2013) and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstadt (7 games in 2017). A massive error in judgment saw Kooki-dooks Elliott pass on the former, and you can understand the latter asking for a release being stuck behind the reigning Dally M Medallist .
There was social media uproar when the likes of Inu, Locke, Hurrell, Faitala-Mariner, Lane, Lolohea, Hingano, Lino and Gavet were released mid- or pre-season to other clubs. Firstly, Shaun Lane is a genuine first grader, but liked being in New Zealand about as much as I like watching us lose to Manly, which he made no secret of on his Locker Room interview with Denan Kemp. Otherwise, all those players either ended up in Super League or Queensland Cup, with the exception of Faitala-Mariner, who seems to have found a home on the struggling Bulldogs’ pine. You can’t keep every player that’s contracted to the club, and while we have had the odd Barry Crocker, for the most part the players we’ve released have been justified.
Verdict – No Try
— Newshub (@NewshubNZ) July 20, 2019
Got a whole country to choose from
Whenever I meet a Kiwi expat when I’m out and about my first question is always the same: ‘Are you a Warriors fan?’. Amazingly, more often that not there’s a pause and a chuckle, followed by ‘Ahhhh, not really’, or ‘When they’re winning’. Looking at social media even today sometimes I wonder if our own supporters are really behind us with the avalanche of negativity that has inevitably followed a decade of underachievement. I’ve also learned that a lot of Kiwis followed the Winfield Cup before the Warriors’ inception and already had a team that they’ve since stuck with. Fair enough to that, can’t beat loyalty. Manly were a popular choice in the ’80s and ’90s thanks to a handful of Kiwi internationals on their roster and Graeme Lowe’s stint as coach. So much so that they were even sponsored by Lion Red in the early-1990s. Plus, as depressing as this to even type many fans have simply lost the faith and jumped ship.
In terms of playing talent, think of the biggest Kiwi names of the past 25 years and then think how many began their career at the Warriors. We’ll always have the greats like Stacey Jones and Simon Mannering to hang our hat on but Ruben Wiki, the Paul brothers, Benji Marshall, SBW, RTS, the Bromwich brothers et al – they were all recruited by Australian clubs, even if they did eventually make it back ‘home’. The fact that most clubs recognise New Zealand as a pool of young talent means we’re now competing with 15 other clubs. You can’t keep them all!
I’ll finish with the example of All Black Ardie Savea, a potential league convert. When asked who he would like to play for he quickly poured cold water on the Warriors, preferring the Roosters or Storm. He must just love lattes on the beach or is a bit of a culture vulture?!
Verdict – No Try
— Stuff.co.nz Sport (@NZStuffSport) May 23, 2017
So I guess it’s pretty much a case of a broken clock being correct twice a day that gives a bit of substance to Brandy ‘OG’ Alexander’s rants about his former club (more on that in the next edition of the Warrior-Roo Blog). While the club has a long way to go to regain credibility with the Australian media, I actually long for the day when we can genuinely be re-identified as a massive, fierce, metre-eating, offloading, pointscoring, consistent beast that we have once been at a time that doesn’t feel that long ago to this writer.