The Warriors will face the unbeaten Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park tomorrow in a match that has more riding on it than two competition points.
The round eight clash doubles as a litmus test for last year's beaten finalists. Have they turned the corner from their early season woes or was last weekend's comprehensive win over South Sydney nothing more than an aberration?
While a loss may not be damning - they go into the match with a three wins, four defeats record - it would prompt more of the angst that enveloped the club earlier in the month.
A win, on the other hand, would prove these Warriors are lacking nothing psychologically and give the side a huge boost before they host second-placed Brisbane the following Saturday (May 5).
Whether that win can be obtained is another question. Melbourne are clearly the benchmark side in this year's competition, looking irrepressible at times in winning their seven matches. They have scored the most points (210) and conceded the fewest (85), so can they be stopped?
"That's the challenge; to play against the best team in the competition at the present moment,'' Warriors coach Brian McClennan said. "Everybody's excited by that. The club has a good record playing against the Storm and we'd like to keep it that way.''
That is the Warriors' not-so-secret weapon heading into tomorrow night. In 29 matches between the sides, Melbourne have won 14 to the Warriors' 13 with two draws, leaving the Storm with their second-lowest winning percentage (48.3 per cent) against any side in the NRL.
The New Zealand side seem to always find an extra boost when playing last year's minor premiers, no more apparent than when the Warriors stunned the Storm on their home park in the finals series in both 2008 and 2011.
McClennan agreed his side raised their game when playing Melbourne and, in his first season in charge, said he was curious this week to find out why.
"I've been waiting for this moment and I've sort of targeted it and had a look, and I'm really interested to know what it is and why the players feel good about playing the Storm,'' he said. "It's been interesting watching them this week, but it's been mixed with a test match so it's probably a little different to what it normally is.''
Halfback Shaun Johnson (shoulder) and winger Manu Vatuvei (ankle) have both been included in the starting side but Pita Godinet and Glen Fisiiahi have travelled with an extended squad of 19 as cover.
Fullback Kevin Locke returns after missing the last three matches because of a leg injury but Jerome Ropati hasn't recovered from his hamstring complaint, with Krisnan Inu retaining his spot at centre.
One thing, in particular, the Warriors have been working on this week is their ball control. The win over the Rabbitohs was the first game this season in which the Warriors have accumulated more than 50 per cent of possession, something McClennan saw as imperative.
"When we play with patience and we complete our sets, we've got the ability to score points. It's going to get tested against Melbourne, who have the best defence, but I'm really confident that if we have more than 50 per cent of the possession we'll be able to score points. "
Then it's a simple matter of keeping out the likes of Billy Slater and Cameron Smith.
"We've got to get a bit more staunch and we've got to defend our line a lot better,'' McClennan said. "It's going to get tested against the Storm but I'm really confident our boys can step up to the mark.''
Warriors: Kevin Locke, Bill Tupou, Ben Henry, Krisnan Inu, Manu Vatuvei, James Maloney, Shaun Johnson, Sione Lousi, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino, Feleti Mateo, Simon Mannering, Elijah Taylor. Interchange: (two to be omitted) Russell Packer, Ukuma Ta'ai, Lewis Brown, Sam Rapira, Pita Godinet, Glen Fisiiahi.
- APNZBy Kris Shannon Email Kris