Graham Lowe: Warriors' numbers just don't stack up
I may be just a simple bloke from Otahuhu, but I do have a theory. Are you ready? If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then the odds are, it is a duck.
Simple (and obviously not an Otahuhu original). But, it's a theory which has served me well in situations around the world (although I couldn't vouch for it these days in Sydney's Kings Cross or Auckland's K Rd).
It's also been a pretty good rule of thumb in the over-hyped world of league.
With a little translation, for example: If it looks like a wide-ranging, hard-running second rower, and plays like one, then it probably is one.
If it looks like a scampering dummy-half, and runs like one, then again it should probably be in the number nine jersey.
Get the picture? Unfortunately I don't think the Warriors have.
At a time when almost every side in the NRL is talking about the brilliance of their little men, the Ericsson-based side looks to be critically short of the most important component in any team - a playmaker - and what's more it looks to me like they are trying to manufacture one.
Consider these comments from the Sydney Morning Herald's Roy Masters this week:
"[Andrew] Johns and his opponent this Sunday, the Cowboys' Johnathan Thurston, have reversed the terror and hours before a big game. "For almost all of the history of both rugby codes, the current of fear originated in the vicious tacklers and flowed white hot into the rattled psyches of the players who earned their big contracts for what they did with ball in hand.
"But Johns, Thurston and a fit Benji Marshall have sent the terror flow back the other way.
"The big props who once stalked around dressing rooms, barking commands at their timid halves and wingers, head-butting lockers, taping knuckles, grunting at officials, causing everyone else to have nervous pees, are the ones praying out loud.
"The little attacking players are now in command. Cleaning up the game - ridding it of vicious elbows, coathangers, stomping, rising knees - is a big factor but the predators are now the prey; terrified stand the terrorists."
Masters has correctly fingered the dominance of the little playmakers in the modern game. And in doing so, he has left observers of the Warriors with some worrying questions.
Can the Auckland club make a clever stand-off out of a physical and not-too-subtle back row forward in Sione Faumuina? Will persisting with Nathan Fein, a more than competent dummy-half but with limited attacking options, suddenly turn up with the playmaking skills they so desperately need?
In Otahuhu-speak: can they turn these ducks into the peacocks who are strutting their stuff so brilliantly at other clubs?
Granted, as St George Illawarra coach Nathan Brown said of Johns after his side's flogging at the hands of Newcastle last weekend: "You're not going to see another player like him in a hundred years."
But the Warriors had one, arguably as good, in Stacey Jones.
It is a damning indictment on their football nous (or lack of it at the time), that he is now seeing out the twilight of his brilliant career in some obscure part of France.
There are many who will argue there is another who has shown the ability to join the ranks of the very good playmakers. Yet, staggeringly, Lance Hohaia hasn't even been able to make the Warriors bench in recent weeks and is 18th man this week
It seems Kiwi coach Brian McClennan sees him as an option in the (admittedly depleted) halves against Australia, but the Warriors do not.
I know Manly were very pleasantly surprised when Hohaia was not out even in the 17 to face them last Sunday.
One of the biggest challenges any coach in the NRL faces is to convince his players that it's easier to run through an open door than barge through a wall.
The art of simply putting a player into a gap seems to be beyond the ability of most of the Warriors' players.
Ballplayers create space and put supporting players into holes. The good ones do it before the line or, to put it another way, before a hand is laid on them.
Finding such players is like walking along the beach kicking over rocks and looking for a diamond. But they are around.
The Warriors face another one this week, the Raiders' veteran five-eighth, Queenslander Jason Smith.
At 34, he is still one of the best ballplayers in the game and he does most of his damage before the line with his ability to draw and pass.
But even with his talent the Raiders look a very average side and should not prove to be too much of a struggle for the Warriors.
The Warriors' next opponents have come at the right time. Against the Raiders then the Rabbitohs they should be able to get themselves back on track. Because on present form the Bulldogs, who they play after Souths, will murder them.
The Raiders do not have a rushing goal-line defence which will suit the Warriors, who appear to be happy just to catch and pass in the hope they will find an overlap.
I have a gut feeling the Warriors have read far more into their win against the West Tigers three weeks ago than what it really was. Sure, the Warriors' attack looked purposeful but they seem to have overlooked the fact that the Tigers were a shadow of the team of 2005 and, in fact, were very poor.
However, I'm still confident the Warriors will be too strong for this Raiders outfit who must be in some sort of disarray since it was revealed their coach Matthew Elliott has already signed with Penrith for next year.
And they are not the same team without Simon Woolford, who is on suspension. But it remains to be seen if the Warriors can change their plumage for a much-needed win.
Good to see that we arent the only ones who feel that Hohaia should be given a fair go. Graeme Lowe always seems to be on the money with his comments and articles. He and Dale Budge are two good writers. Dale Budge unfortunately does not have the "balls" to be critical unfortunately.