NRL: Warriors battling their own demons

By Michael Brown

Shaun Johnson. Photo / Getty Images.
Shaun Johnson. Photo / Getty Images.

It's often said sport is 10 per cent physical and 90 per cent psychological and, no matter what the split, the Warriors realise they have to make considerable progress in their mental application if they are to figure this season.

It was a focus of their pre-season under new coach Matt Elliott but an aspect of the game clearly lacking in their season opener last weekend.

They were embarrassed 40-10 by Parramatta and, while it is only one game, it's hard to escape the fact it comes on the back of a club-record eight-game losing streak at the end of their 2012 campaign.

The players were put through a video session on Monday in their War Room, as they have called it, that should have come with a parental warning. It was uncomfortable for them, and Elijah Taylor said it was "very, very honest". They might have got a sense of how unpleasant it was for fans last weekend who witnessed 31 missed tackles, 10 errors, nine penalties and seven tries conceded.

Elliott almost welcomed the fact they were embarrassed against the Eels rather than keeping collateral damage to a minimum because, to him, the learnings are greater in a heavy defeat.

"Last week was a fantastic lesson for us, a lesson if you miss you're going to have to learn twice," he said. "I prefer just to learn it once. I think there were some pretty crucial things unearthed. Sometimes getting your pants pulled down like we did ... we could have fumbled our way through the game and lost 28-12, but we would have missed the point. There were some really fundamental things we need to address as a group and as a club.

"The main thing is you can only expect and accept the very, very best effort from yourself and then you need to expect that from your teammates. Both are equally culpable. If you are prepared to accept the best from yourself but are prepared to accept your teammates giving in, that's not good enough either. That's something we have addressed head-on. The indications in practice are they have responded to it but the ultimate measure will be on the weekend."

The Warriors host Sonny Bill Williams ... and 16 of his Roosters teammates at Eden Park on Saturday night. Williams is still feeling his way back into rugby league after a five-year absence but has the chance to very quickly find form if the Warriors play as poorly as they did against Parramatta.

The Warriors are aware of that but most of their focus has been on their own game.

"Our issue is not our opponent," Elliott said. "We will be the opponent's issue when we get our stuff sorted. We just have to get our stuff sorted. And we will.

"This is about the individual taking responsibility. Players and coaches will stuff up but we have to make sure that's not due to lack of effort or being distracted by scorelines or things like that. What we need is a guarantee from every player and coach that they give every skerrick, every bit of our essence in helping the team win."

It's the type of attitude that carried Melbourne to the NRL title last year and something new Warriors centre Dane Nielsen, who spent five years at the Storm, said is ingrained in every player there. He said it started on the first day of pre-season and was expected at every training session.

"What I learned at the Storm is that you have to have the will to win," Nielsen said. "You have to want to go out every week, not just in games, with the attitude you want to get better.

"It's also about working together. I think in the weekend we showed that in patches but for the majority we didn't. We got our heads down. We have to fix that. We have to have the attitude that we are never going to give up whether we are in front by two tries or behind by a few."

- APNZ

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