General Chris Rattue: Golden age beckons for reborn Warriors



There is a wild, dangerous feeling in the air and not just on the stock markets and around New Zealand First.

The NRL finals have exploded because New Zealand is in the thick of it. There is every reason to be confident that the Warriors will beat the Sydney Roosters on Friday night in an action-packed and high-scoring affair.

Both sides will go into the game having had a battering. The Warriors will have had only five days of rest, after dealing with a Melbourne team that turns tackles into exhausting pile-ups. Even if the players aren't exhausted by it, rest assured that many spectators are.

The Roosters played a battering ram of a game against the Broncos. Despite two extra days of rest they could still be feeling the effects. Both teams are having to deal with travel.

Defence will be the first to suffer on tired legs. Both sides are only moderate defenders and are unlikely to turn the game into trench warfare the way the Cronulla crowbars do.

Home advantage, muscle, momentum, form and another farewell for the adored Ruben Wiki say the Warriors should win in a frantic clash, with both sides straining in the final quarter. Fingers crossed for the Aucklanders. League loves to lay it on thick, especially come finals time.

The arguments over grapple tackles continue, there are opinions aplenty on the McIntyre finals system, Melbourne have been ungracious in defeat, you can bet commentator and Roosters rooster Phil Gould will put his highly valued 10c worth in, Manly are annoyed at the venue allocations, and so on and so forth. The only thing missing is the human headline Willie Mason, and in a funny way you kind of miss the unsound soundbite king.

There is one horrible black mark hanging over the finals, and that is the allegations of sexual misconduct against three star Brisbane Broncos players. This has been followed by believable claims that Broncos players treated members of the public with contempt during a drinking session on Saturday.

It has reached the point that many of us are deeply, overwhelmingly, completely and utterly sick of the sort of behaviour that continues to go on in isolated but significant instances in league (and other sports).

Enough is enough. It is time the police got serious about proving these allegations and the serious offenders slung in jail. Sexual violators in particular should be hunted down.

The sexual allegations are unproven, it has to be said, but where there is smoke there is fire. Nine times out of 10 in these cases, it pays to believe the allegations made by women complainants even though they are often hard to prove.

New Zealand has a case of its own involving Kiwi players in Wellington, which was never resolved satisfactorily.

Arrogant, drunk, stupid, overly fit athletes operating in macho hordes - these are young men who are so cherished by a sports-mad society that they feel few constraints and are prone to go on the rampage. Blokes who reach these sporting heights are not usually short on outward confidence - make that bravado - either.

Young and sometimes naive women flock in stunning numbers to be with these men, consumed by their stardom and good looks, high on the thrill and oblivious or uncaring of any dangers. Lines become blurred. It is an explosive mix.

The developing situation in Brisbane is absolutely sickening, a blight on what is shaping as a fabulous finals series. One consolation is that the Broncos club has an honourable record in these matters.

But once again, the mere fact that the players were boozing up in Brisbane's nightlife centre, thus sending the finals into disarray, is another act of contempt towards league fans who have already had to put up with the ultimate jerk, Sonny Bill Williams, this year.

Back to the game. It is tempting to call the Warriors' win over Melbourne the most significant result in New Zealand league for many years. So let's, despite the dangers.

It has set the club up for a promising future whatever may happen for the remainder of this season because they will be far tougher in away matches, their Achilles heel under Ivan Cleary.

The last-gasp win at Melbourne is significant in so many ways. For a start, it should secure and enhance Cleary's position as the head coach. He needed a big finals win to prove - to himself, even - that he is capable of rising above a nearly-man tag.

It will allow the Warriors some breathing space, and further encourage the sort of patience that wins over the long haul as opposed to hurried moves for quick-fix results.

The Warriors have had a troubled history but there is a stable feel to the place now around the Cleary/John Ackland coaching team and an administration that is positively a shrinking violet compared to the towering egos that have run and ruined the club in the past.

A virtually and surprisingly invisible John Hart apparently dispenses a telling, impressive influence.

But there was a danger that this stable ship would turn into a sinking one if it couldn't win big games in Australia.

Beating such a superb side in an away finals match will instil real belief in the players, and particularly those from New Zealand football.

One of the frustrations in watching the Warriors is that you almost sense some players don't know how good they and the club could be. Now they do.

They have got a taste, and it should give them a taste for more.

The Warriors had also retreated into their niche community but have drawn in the wider audience, and their all important wallets, again.

Last year's fourth placing should have been a triumph, yet the finals series only confirmed the impression that the Warriors are a team that stuffs up on the big occasion.

A devoted Warriors fan I know still fumes over the Logan Swann mistake that cost the Warriors victory against Parramatta at Mt Smart.

"They are just so frustrating but I still love them,"she reckoned last week.

A strong Warriors club that continually pushes for titles, a la the Broncos, would lift league to new levels and change the sporting landscape in this country forever. That would be a day to celebrate.

And, most importantly, a genuine title-chasing Warriors club just might attract the world class playmaker they deserve eventually. If they had a Darren Lockyer at No 6, this Warriors squad would be sensational.

Time here to once again pay tribute to the effect Steve Price has had on the Warriors. On and off the field, he has been superb by leading and leading until others follow.

Long may Price keep churning up the metres. And when - not if - this club achieves the heights it was always capable of down the line, his name will never be forgotten.

It is such an irony that Price was signed by one of those dodgy administrations of old, which shows that life is often about shades of grey rather than black and white.

A final note, though. It is sacrilege to over-praise a New Zealand league side, because the great moments are often followed by even greater falls.

Favouritism is an unusual and dangerous bedfellow for them.

The Warriors worked a historic miracle as underdogs last week, and now is the perfect time to show they are also ruthless favourites.


League: 'We've earned right to host semi,' says Price

Skipper Steve Price has defended the National Rugby League's playoff system, saying he believes the New Zealand Warriors have earned the right to a home semifinal.

The McIntyre system has been used for the eight-team finals series for the past 10 seasons but continues to have its critics.

They point to the fact that the Warriors ended the regular season in eighth spot, but still get to host a semifinal on Friday night against the Sydney Roosters, who finished fourth.

The Roosters' defeat to Brisbane last Friday night is one half of the reason they have had to travel across the Tasman.

The other is the Warriors' feat in achieving what no other eighth-placed team had done under the McIntyre system - beat the minor premiers in week one of the playoffs.

Their shock 18-15 result over Melbourne on Sunday handed them one last appearance at Mt Smart Stadium this year.

Price understandably had no complaints about where the Warriors found themselves.

"You earn the right, I suppose," he said of home advantage.

"The team that lost loses that right. It happened to us last year."

Twelve months ago, the Warriors were in the same situation as the Roosters are now.

The finished fourth in the minor premiership, but were beaten by Parramatta 12-10 at home in a qualifying final.

They had a second life, but had to travel to North Queensland, where they wilted in the tropical heat to go down 49-12.

Price said being on home turf was no guarantee of victory, but it was a help.

"It's a football field and it's where you have to go to play that game of football," he said.

"We just happen to be at a place where we play our home games. It's not going to win us the game, but it's certainly a bonus."

Rooster Nate Myles had no gripes either, saying the Warriors had deserved the chance to run out in front of their own fans after their display against the Storm.

"We put ourselves in this position, so we're going to have to go over there and perform really well to beat them."

Canberra skipper Alan Tongue, whose Raiders were eliminated by the Warriors' result over the Storm, was also happy with the status quo.

"People have questioned the top-eight system," he said.

"The Warriors have shown that they'd worked hard enough to get into eighth position, and if you turn up, you get to have a crack at it, and if you play your best footy, you can knock off the top side."

Last week, coaching guru Warren Ryan, a long-time opponent of the McIntyre system, attacked the format for discarding rankings after week one.

He also said the system could lead to bad anomalies where two top-four sides were suddenly in a sudden-death encounter against one another in week two of the finals.

That hasn't transpired this time around, but the other semifinal this weekend does feature a heavyweight clash between two of the title favourites, with Brisbane hosting Melbourne on Saturday night.


Golden age....caaaaalllmmm down....geez a loss this weekend will have the critics back thick and fast.


Agreed Skinny.

He spent most the article bitching about the Broncos getting into trouble.

NZ journos are crap. No substance or creative writing.


Actually it's one of his better articles.

He makes a good point about playing in Australia now as well.


Agreed Swanley, this article wasn't too bad and spoke some good truths there.

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