Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

NRL: Warriors closing in on the record no one wants

The Warriors have lost 11 games straight.  Photo / Getty Images
The Warriors have lost 11 games straight. Photo / Getty Images

A trough. A hole. A jam. Whatever your preferred name for a sports disaster zone, the Warriors are in it, big time.

They are turning into the finest of NRL dog tucker having lost 11 games straight - including three this year - since beating the Titans on the Gold Coast in early July.

The worst league first grade records occurred before the NRL was formed in 1998, led by University which lost 42 straight in the 1930s.

But the Warriors are closing in on the NRL record nobody wants of 14 straight losses, set by Wests over the 1998-99 seasons. Actually, the Wests coach of the time, Tommy Raudonikis, isn't too upset by his team's lowly place in NRL history. Raspy-voiced Tommy is one of sport's great characters, a knockabout fella who is to political correctness what Stalin was to democracy.

When Cronulla were on the cusp of equalling Wests' losing streak two years ago, Tommy wished Sharks coach Ricky Stuart all the best.

"I hope youse win," he was quoted as saying, and probably with a cigarette bouncing up and down on his lips. "I'm not embarrassed about the record - I've had a great life."

He even offered Stuart some advice: "Don't get the shits with your players". It worked a treat, Parramatta were beaten, the record avoided.

The Warriors' best chance of snapping the streak in time probably comes on Monday night, when they host North Queensland. The Cowboys' squad is of title-challenging quality, but they have a few soft spots and were smashed up last week by the Newcastle Knights (which might make the Warriors' task a little tougher). After that, the Warriors are at home to the scary Rabbitohs, then travel to Canberra and Melbourne where they might claim the record for themselves. Ouch, and few would fancy their chances in those games.

What to do? For starters, losses aren't all bad, especially for the fans. Research has shown the most fun you can have watching sport occurs when it comes attached to a big dose of fear.

"You need the negative emotions of thinking your team might lose to get you in an excited, nervous state," a research egghead has said.

In other words, Melbourne Storm fans are being robbed of the true sporting experience, poor sods.

There are a number of ways people try to end losing streaks.

When a New York Mets baseball pitcher named Anthony Young smashed an 82-year-old record by clocking up 27 straight losses in the early 1990s, fans sent him charms like a four leaf clover, the good ol' rabbit's foot, horse shoes, and a woman even parted with her lucky two dollars.

But hang on to your money folks, because the Warriors have flagged the horseshoe-type methods and gone for psychologist Dr Ceri Evans, who as a former All White knows about sporting struggles.

Dr Evans, a Rhodes scholar, helped prepare the All Blacks for the 2011 World Cup. Depending on your point of view, this means he played a part in a team that underperformed and scraped home or showed a lot of mental toughness to grimly hang on for victory in the final.

An interesting article on losing streaks was written by American sports psychologist Eddie O'Connor in response to a disastrous run by the Detroit Lions gridiron team. He revealed the compounding effect by explaining typical player/coach reaction to a string of losses.

• An over-focus on losses. The mind is designed to concentrate on threats and this is not necessarily a good thing in sport.

• A desperate over-focus on winning. This distracts from being in the moment of focusing on what can be controlled.

• Angry emotional reactions, which can work if they are aimed at improving the tasks at hand. But wild emotions often move players away from where they need to be.

• A change in tactics. Don't change for the sake of change - the current moves may still be the best moves.

• Doing too much. Players over-compensate by doing other players' jobs and this stuffs things up.

• The blame game, which can ruin unity and chemistry.

• Dwelling on mistakes. Focusing on what you don't want to do increases the chance you'll do it again.

• Beating yourself up, increasing the likelihood you'll get beat again.

• Giving up, always a big no-no but unfortunately loss after loss after loss wrecks motivation.

In a nutshell, a way for the Warriors to end the losing streak is to pretend they're in a long winning streak; that is, don't worry, be happy. But fans should hold on to reality because that will make the streak-busting game even more of a thrill.

NRL's worst losers

14: Wests 1998-99

13: Newcastle 2005, North Queensland 2008, Cronulla 2009-10.

12: Wests 1999, Souths 2006

- NZ Herald

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