Robert Anderson is a Brisbane-based Warriors fan and long-time member of the club. Throughout 2020, he has shared his memories and thoughts on his beloved team for This Warriors Life. Here’s the 17th edition of Robert’s ‘Warrior-Roo’ blog (find previous entries HERE):
It’s a bit of a familiar story – Warriors blow late lead in must-win game! We’ve all sat through those excruciating scenarios where we just need to hold onto that scoreboard advantage and stumble at the final hurdle. Ordinarily when trapeze artist Toby Rudolf crashed through some ordinary defence to put the Sharks ahead you would have had an uproar on your hands! The part-time fans distance themselves from the ‘hopeless’ Warriors, the jerseys get tossed into the fire pit, and the rotten so-called ‘bro culture’ rears its ugly head again.
But that didn’t happen. In fact, the very opposite was true. Despite the disappointing nature of the performance against the Sharks in Round 18 there was nothing but love for the boys from our faithful and opposition supporters alike. The way that the team was able to drag themselves up from the canvas and fight on despite all the obstacles is both admirable and inspirational.
Sure, another loss against Canberra followed. However, instead of moaning about what could have been, people seemed to be celebrating this team. This was particularly highlighted in the final round against Manly with our old rivals showing amazing sportsmanship and formeing a guard of honour in an act of gratitude to our soldiers. In fact, the whole final game appeared to be a celebration of this team and the boys responded by lighting up the field with some dazzling attacking footy. Defence not mentioned as there didn’t seem to be much of that on display from either team! But who would blame the combatants in the final dead-rubber game of possibly the toughest season in rugby league history,
So now it’s all over and the boys are back home to their families finally. When the dust finally settled on season 2020 there was plenty to think back on and ponder.
The season started terribly, not just because COVID-19 crash-tackled the whole game during Round 2, but also the on-field performances were frankly awful. We looked clueless in attack and in 160 minutes of footy all we had to show was a solitary penalty try – so technically we didn’t even place the ball over the line. At the time it seemed like a blessing in disguise that the pandemic had stalled the 2020 season indefinitely.
During the break the team made the tough and courageous decision to set up camp back in Australia away from family and friend for at least four months. To my surprise my fellow Aussies responded by hailing the Warriors as heroes for their selflessness. The media jumped onboard and ran with it, and it looked like we might have had a hall pass for another mediocre season. Well, I’m sure Steve Kearney could be forgiven for thinking this might have applied to him, too, which ensured his sacking after Round 6 raised more than a few eyebrows.
Enter Todd Payten, a former halfback trapped in a prop’s body and ex-Raider, Rooster and premiership winner at the Tigers. His steely gaze and tough press conference talk got us all a little bit excited. However, the form that followed to be fair was unprecedented. The Warriors have not been know for toughness, particularly between the ears. When the going gets tough we usually fold like a cheap tent. Not Payten’s posse, though. Despite a couple of stinkers against Melbourne and Cronulla, and an unforgivable loss to Gold Coast, every other performance was something that all Warriors fans could be proud of. It seems like a long time that we’ve been able to say that.
There’s one word that I’ll use to sum up season 2020: RESILIENCE. Payten in only a few weeks was able to instil in the boys’ characteristics what they have been missing for well over a decade. Even in losses to competition heavyweights the Roosters, Panthers, Eels and Raiders we didn’t disgrace ourselves – they could have easily won all four. It was amazingly refreshing to know that when the boys turned up they were there to play.
The concept of a loan player became a very real thing in 2020 and I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first. Would someone from another club really come and play for us with the same passion and desire, especially if they were sent under protest? Enter four outstanding young men who not only subsided my initial fears, but will be fondly remembered by all Warriors faithful for years to come. The sight of George Jennings scoring a try in a Warriors jersey and grinning like a Cheshire cat says it all and I’m sure all he, Poasa Faamausili, Jack Hetherington and Daniel Alvaro will never forget the experience.
Then Toddy broke up with us during a bizarre live interview on NRL 360. I for one was completely blindsided thinking we finally had the coach we’ve always needed. The Townsville-bound waxed dome with the steely gaze will certainly be missed by all, and again he will have a special place in all our hearts.
Nevertheless we carried on and continued our form through to the finish line with more than our heads held high. We had won newfound respect this side of the Tasman and the gratitude towards the team has been somewhat overwhelming. It sure beats the old ‘bunch of losers, kick them out of the comp’ chestnut!
Earlier in the season I was highly critical of the 2020 merchandise drop – the Kiwi Bush Shirt front and centre! However, by the end of the season I actually ended up with most of the gear in the closet! The memories of the 2020 season will live on forever and when I put on the blue, red, and green with the grey logo I’ll always be proud of the group of men that wore the colours on the field.
No pressure Bronwie, but you’ve got a hell of an act to follow!