The Warriors have a fair bit going for them. The emergence of Reece Walsh and Rocco Berry. The impending return of Shaun Johnson. Addin Fonua-Blake and Matt Lodge in the front-row, arguably the club’s most imposing pairing since the days of Price and Wiki. Heading home for good soon after two seasons on the road.
But the stark reality of a NRL season that is slipping away and rapidly descending into one of the Warriors’ worst ever is starting to bite.
The Warriors have plummeted to 13th on the back of a five-match losing streak. Their 5-11 record is as bad as the club has produced after 16 games and is its worst in 17 years.
The Warriors also went 5-11 in 1997, 1999 and 2004. In ’97 and ’04, the club parted ways with its head coach mid-season (John Monie and Daniel Anderson respectively) and installed caretakers for the remainder of the campaign (Frank Endacott and Tony Kemp respectively). In ’99, rookie NRL coach Mark Graham was beset by a heavy injury toll, the absence of captain Matthew Ridge for 12 weeks through suspensions and shambolic management and ownership problems.
Nathan Brown and the 2021 Warriors’ excuses for producing a historically bad win-loss ratio are comparatively light. Sure, there’s been a lot of injuries and the team is still stationed in Australia – but the patched-together Warriors had far more justification to implode last year yet rallied sensationally under Todd Payten and almost made the playoffs.
There is still time to steer the sinking ship into Top 8 shores, but the next fortnight against Penrith and Souths should all but take the Warriors out of the equation. The Warriors are somewhat conservative $3.15 underdogs against the Panthers this Sunday, presumably due to the absence of injured NSW halves Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai. They are getting just a 9.5-point start against a team that has achieved 10 of its 14 wins by margins of 18 or more.
— The Shark (@TABShark) July 15, 2021
If, as expected, the Warriors lose their next two, they will be 5-13 – equal with Graham’s ’99 side for the club’s poorest record after 18 games. But what do Browny’s bunch need to do to avoid becoming branded as statistically the worst (or one of) teams in Warriors history?
The 1999 outfit went on a late-season rampage, winning five of their last six games to finish 10-14.
The Warriors’ worst record belongs to the 2004 team, who finished the year 6-18 and on a six-match losing streak. Next on the list are Stephen Kearney’s 2017 line-up (7-17), Graham’s 2000 side (8-2-15), Ivan Cleary’s heartbroken 2009 charges (7-2-15) and the 2012 squad (8-16) coached until the final two rounds by ‘Bluey’ McClennan – only the third (and the most recent, assuming Brown, Trent Barrett and Kevin Walters are safe) head coach to fail to see out the first season of a contract with a new club.
Games against Wests Tigers, Cronulla, Canterbury, Brisbane, Canberra and Gold Coast at least provide the opportunity for the Warriors to finish better off than those previous failures…but there are no guarantees.
Ladder-wise, the lowest the Warriors have finished is 15th in the 20-team NRL premiership of 1998 under Endacott. They landed second-last for the only time in 2000, a 15-team comp. The sides of 2009 and 2012 both came 14th of 16 teams. The Tigers are now level with the Warriors on 12 points, with the Broncos only one win behind the Bulldogs languishing in last on six points.
The Bulldogs are hot $1.12 favourites in the Least Wins market – but it’s not out of the realms of possibility that the Warriors ($26) could end up with their first wooden spoon.
Worryingly for a Warriors side that has already lost five on the trot, they are one of the worst-performed late-season teams in the NRL. From 2012-20, the Warriors won just 21 of 72 games over the last eight rounds of the campaign. They lost all eight in 2012, 2015 and 2017. Only once during that period, in 2018 when they won five, have the Warriors won more than half of their games over the last two months of the regular season – not-so-coincidentally the only year since 2011 they made the finals.
Record losing streaks will also start creeping into the frame if the Warriors can’t stop the rot soon. The nine-match losing run to end 2017 was the club’s worst single-season streak, while a pair of 11-match losing streaks bridged two seasons (2012-13 and 2015-16). Defeats to the Panthers and Rabbitohs would see the Warriors chalk up their equal-fourth-worst losing streak.
The Warriors have scored 19.81 points per game and conceded 24.75 on average so far this season. Things would have to go diabolically bad from here for them to break unwanted club records for least points scored per game (15.71 in 2009) and most points conceded per game (28.88 in 2004).
So is there any chance they can make all the above redundant and simultaneously revive their playoffs dream with an upset of Penrith in NRL Round 18? It’s an emphatic ‘no’ from TAB’s The Shark, who is tipping the Panthers by 16 and has pinpointed the Under 50.5 total points at $1.90 as his Best Bet.