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How to fix the Warriors, NZ’s most tortured sports franchise

Radio New Zealand Radio New Zealand 4/09/2016 David Bell

The Warriors are New Zealand’s most tortured sports franchise. Their ineptitude runs so deep and has so many layers, it’s like a fractal image or a mathematical equation people study for 100 years. They’re the sporting equivalent of old Gil from The Simpsons, if Gil also every now and then turned into Poe Dameron and made you feel great about yourself for a bit before returning to Gil. The Warriors are a genre of suffering unto themselves. The highs are unlike any other, as are the lows. 

Just check out the incredible titles on their Wikipedia page:

The contents of the NZ Warriors' Wikipedia entry showing the turmoil of the last few years. © Wikipedia The contents of the NZ Warriors' Wikipedia entry showing the turmoil of the last few years.

I swear this isn't made up. Since making the grand final in 2011, the Warriors have been pretty consistently bad. Going into this season there was a familiar feeling of hope: they’d signed a few amazing players, kept a bunch of the established stars and young talent, and were saying all the right things. Then they went and delivered a Warriors season as classic as a classics degree.

They opened with a catastrophic losing streak, before pulling things back a little and giving the impression they’d figured it out. Then came an embarrassing loss, the standard off-field scandals, and a few heartening wins which led to a very winnable run of games that would have snuck them into the playoffs. Of course, they ended up losing two of their last three games while playing some of the best and worst rugby league you will ever see. This is how all but maybe three or four Warriors seasons have panned out.

But the Warriors were the first club team I really fell for and I will love them forever. I assume this sort of love is why parents don’t care when their kids are complete dicks to them. Unconditional or something.

Life long connection or not, five years is a long time to be this bad. Even for the Warriors. They really need to show us (and themselves!) something next season. Anything! Here’s a few things they could do.

Sort out the coaching

The Warriors have the best hooker, fullback and ball running 7 in the game, a backline of future superstars and a tough forward pack. How do they get worse? That’s not a rhetorical question. It’s amazing that it’s even possible. The rest of the NRL must pray every night that they don’t pull it together.

When adding stars in their prime like Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Isaac Luke, as well as locally sourced future stars like Tuimoala Lolohea, David Fusitu’a and Solomone Kata, results in zero improvement, lack of talent is not your problem.

Andrew McFadden seems like a nice guy, but he also served his coaching apprenticeship under one of the most cooked coaches the Warriors have ever had, and that’s saying something. As of today, Cappy and his predecessor Matt Elliot have the same win percentage. That number is 45 which is quite apt, because y’know… shoot me. Make it stop. Please.

With more talent than we have space on the pitch for, the Warriors’ next signing has to be a superstar coach rather than player. I’m talking guys like Wayne Bennett, Craig Bellamy or Des Hasler.

It’s a bit obvious to say, “hey get one of the best coaches of all time to fix things”, but we did spend a million dollars on a tiny English dude to play fullback when we already had two great fullbacks already, then we replaced him with THE PREMIER fullback in the game. We need to really spell it out for Warriors management. The Warriors management are your mate that just won $300 at the casino and are determined to keep gambling. Go buy 20 beers with your $300, you idiots.

Stop signing old past it Australians

Remember Jeff Robson? J**** C****. That guy made Quade Cooper look like Ray Lewis. That was only six months ago. It’s been a long season.

Seriously, every year we sign at least one 30-something that ends up retired or in the English Super League (lol) the following year. I’m sick of seeing guys that are too old and slow to still be in the NRL playing ahead of our young talent while we pay them the money we should be saving for Wayne Bennett.

The Warriors is where old white Australian dudes who were once NRL players come to die. This needs to stop. Our biggest issue around immigration is these guys. We have to stop them at the border. We have heaps of room for everyone except these guys.

Stop playing “home” games away from Mt Smart

I get that these games are a revenue grab and marketing ploy for the club, but y’know what would generate a lot of revenue and market the team? Making the playoffs more than once a decade. You might find that not destroying the souls of your fans actually results in a growing fanbase.

The best marketing strategy is winning games. For example, the Boston Celtics were once like the Warriors; then they traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, made two NBA Finals and then every male on the North Shore bought a Celtics jersey.

Guys please, you already have to travel more than any other team, you struggle to win at home let alone in Australia and you’re out here getting fancy and travelling a bit more? You’re fucking grounded until you can make the playoffs two years in a row.

Make a decision on Tuimoala Lolohea

Tuimoala Lolohea. © Ashley Feder/Getty Image Tuimoala Lolohea. Against the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Tuimoala Lolohea had an absolute shocker. It was like when I play indoor cricket. Technically I’m on the field, but there will be times when you wonder if I’m even out there paying attention at all.

The thing is though, Tui is very talented and he’s played every position in the backline over the last two seasons. Imagine if every day for two years you had to do a completely different job. You’d be Andy in Twin Peaks and don’t deny it.

Tui is a superstar, but we owe it to him to decide what position to play him and leave him there for a whole season so he can reach his full potential. If we can’t do that, we should let him go and flourish somewhere else, then come back with his new team to own us in a suitably galling way.

Stop dropping the ball on the first set of six after scoring

There is nothing more consistent in professional sport – I would argue life – than the Warriors doing the work to score a try then dropping the ball in the next play. They immediately hand the opposition the ball and fantastic field position, nullifying any advantage gained. It’s like they think it’s part of the rules or something.

I know this seems very obvious, but my god.

Bear hug the ball; kick it on the first tackle if you have to; fire every guy that drops the ball in this scenario. By any means necessary they need to complete every set after scoring. If they went a whole season doing this, but still lost every game I swear I’d still be happy.

Play some defence

I have nothing light-hearted to say about this. All games that involve a ball require you to be very good at defence. It’s half of the game. Be good at it, or at least not awful.

Make them feel our pain

It’s true that all sports teams watch footage as a means to get better. However I want the Warriors to watch the footage under the same conditions we do. I want them to watch every game, the wins and losses, once a week in chronological order at their original air times. No compilations. No stopping to discuss the finer points of how to improve. They just have to take it in.

On a Sunday afternoon, I want them to have to forgo activities they enjoy, activities that don’t make a small part of them die inside. To watch each game with that hope we have. I want them to experience the highs of clinically beating a playoff contender, then the confusion of getting absolutely demolished by a team third to last the following week. I want them to wonder why, after three straight golden point games, they haven’t improved at all in setting up field goals.

I want them to experience the helplessness we do. The very specific sense of dread and inevitability that comes with being a Warriors fan. I want them to think this time it MIGHT be different, and then watch on as it is in fact not different at all. To rue that time they will never get back.

I want them to realise that on paper they are the most terrifying team in the NRL and every other team has nightmares about them one day getting their shit together. I want them to make those nightmares real and our dreams come true.

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