Chris Rattue 's Opinion

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

Chris Rattue: Warriors just need more tough Aussies

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Human bulldozer could be a superstar, as could Shaun Johnson, but both lack enough heart and desperation.

Konrad Hurrell. Photo / Getty Images
Konrad Hurrell. Photo / Getty Images

If Konrad Hurrell is the Warriors' saviour then quick, get me out of here.

Hurrell is a human bulldozer, especially when there is a table of food about. He represents what is wrong with the Warriors - a player of immense strength and potential who won't give everything for the cause.

Just like halfback Shaun Johnson, Hurrell could be a superstar who brings a title to Mt Smart Stadium. Or is that Eden Park? Just like Johnson, he won't. They don't have enough heart and desperation for the league trenches.

Hurrell is off the reserve grade naughty chair and in the first grade travelling squad for Saturday night's clash against the Cowboys in Townsville, having turned up to work this year 10kg overweight. That's an incredible effort - maybe he was mainlining doughnuts.

It's a long flight to Townsville, a journey full of snacks. It's hot in Townsville. This is not a good recipe for Hurrell's return.

If he does play, Hurrell will power over for a try with a pack of Cowboys on his back and sweat pouring down his brow. He'll make a few tackles then plant hands on knees. Then he'll turn to stone as Johnathan Thurston aims fit and fast runners his way.

Johnson, who plays in a central control position, is an even bigger problem who is turning into a club killer. He got too many accolades too soon. He is too talented to drop, not strong enough to lead. People will still be talking about Johnson's potential when he is 28.

There was a stanza during the latest Canberra Raiders' match against the Newcastle Knights that epitomised what the NRL is all about.

Canberra had scraped a lead, and Newcastle were furious in their famous cauldron. They hit the Raiders with everything in the next set. It was gloriously brutal, a team firing up in unison. The Warriors don't operate like that.

Heart and physical size are not related. Matthew Ridge was a skinny bloke who was insanely brave. Dean Bell wasn't the biggest of footballers, but what a ticker. Andrew Johns, the great Aussie halfback, would smash props backwards. Micheal Luck - now there was courage. Brent Tate - a competitive maniac, neck brace and all.

From now on, the Warriors must look beyond the obvious no matter how tempting the goodies appear to be. If a player has extreme skills, he needs a fierce determination as well. Okay, this is only one angle in a sea of theories about this dud of a club, one which was originally touted as the next Brisbane-style force. For years, there have been calls for more tough Australians in the mix.

For years it's been a matter of honour to resist and point out the pea-hearted Aussies who've added to the woes. A lot of us would love to hear a few louder ticks from Feleti Mateo's direction.

But the majority of the Warriors' tough footballers with a nous for the game, who have set the tone, have been Australians or New Zealanders who learned their trade across the ditch. Price, Campion, Luck, Wiki ... the search must go on.

There is a fatal flaw in our home-based development system. The players aren't forged in a furnace, like the young Aussies are. Unfortunately, stout Simon Mannering-types are exceptions to the rule.

The Warriors might go the whole hog, and be an Aussie franchise abroad with strong Auckland benefits. They need to find the next Paul Gallen, and they ain't going to find him here.

Maybe frustration is taking over, leading to cliches. These are the words I never wanted to write - the Warriors need more tough Aussies.

Smith needs priority check
It's hard to figure Tommy Smith out. Before the 2010 World Cup soccer finals in South Africa, the new All Whites defender displayed all the qualities you would expect from a committed international who had just scored a massive break.

Now he is going overboard to put Ipswich before national team obligations, giving the recent game against Japan a miss and apparently declaring he doesn't want to play a friendly during the English club off-season.

It's tempting to suggest the All Whites tell him to take a hike, especially after his disgracefully selfish threat to quit international soccer before the World Cup qualifier against Mexico in a dispute about a late pass into camp.

However, New Zealand soccer's playing strength isn't good enough to discard Smith - diplomacy and pragmatism must rule.

Smith has been quoted as saying "international fixtures aren't meant to conflict with your club games" as if the matches against Mexico were friendlies rather than World Cup do or die missions.

The guy has got priorities seriously out of whack. It must be one rule for all for a World Cup qualifier.

New Zealand may be a long way from top professional soccer, but we do understand career demands. This is not a new situation. But come on Tommy - show more enthusiasm and pay New Zealand soccer better respect even if you aren't always available for friendlies.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

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

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Read more by Chris Rattue

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