NRL: Warriors head to Perth with win required

By Steve Deane

The Warriors need to muscle up tonight against Manly or start thinking about 2013. Photo / Getty Images.
The Warriors need to muscle up tonight against Manly or start thinking about 2013. Photo / Getty Images.

Muscle up or start thinking about 2013.

That's the equation facing the Warriors as they trot out on to Perth's Paterson's Stadium tonight to face a Manly side that has owned them for the last five years.

The Warriors' one success over that span was a 26-24 victory at Brookvale in 2009, when a Stacey Jones chip-and-chase in his comeback match sealed the deal.

That win proved a mirage, however, with the Warriors fading out to 14th while Manly went on to finish fifth, maintaining what is now a record of having made the playoffs in seven straight seasons.

The easy points on offer from the Warriors have certainly aided that streak. The head-to-head record over the last five years stands at 8-1 to the Sea Eagles. But even those numbers don't fully reflect Manly's dominance.

The scoreline has seldom been close. Manly have made light of the Warriors' much-vaunted forward power, dominating their opposites up front and shredding them out wide.

"They play a bullying style of game," Warriors coach Brian McClennan said.

"They get in and bully you and that has worked against our club. We have to fight fire with fire and be prepared to go the whole distance because that is the type of game it is going to be."

If anything the odds are more heavily stacked against the Warriors than ever before. With names like Glenn Stewart, Anthony Watmough, Tony 'T-Rex' Williams, Jamie Lyon, Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran, Manly's team sheet reads like a who's who of Sydney league.

With the likes of debutant Sebastine Ikahihifo, Sam Lousi, Konrad Hurrell, Shaun Johnson and Ben Henry in the ranks, the Warriors also boast an All Star line-up - however those stars have done most of their sparkling in the Toyota Cup.

Whether McClennan's painfully young charges can stand up to the fire-breathers in Manly's line-up remains to be seen.

"If we want to win the game we are going to have to," he said. "You've got to confront it, you can't avoid it. You have to front up and make sure you are physical yourself.

"We are going to have to have a lot more mongrel and a lot more pride in us than what we showed [against Newcastle]."

Last week's meltdown from 18-0 against the Knights looms large heading into tonight's fixture. It was a crucial two points dropped and, more worryingly, revealed a soft underbelly heading into a brutal three-match swing against top eight clubs.

It wasn't the first painful reverse this season, but it was the most alarming. The defensive steal that had been on display in Brisbane a week earlier simply evaporated under what was largely self-induced pressure.

"The boys were very, very flat," McClennan said. "Whether the Brisbane game took it out of them or the back-to-back away games, I don't know. At the end of the day they are just excuses. That was a poor effort."

While physical toughness will be needed in spades to combat Manly, a lack of mental toughness has more often undermined the Warriors this season. Winning positions have been squandered, dominant displays have resulted in defeats.

This is a team that simply doesn't kick on when everything is in its favour. There is a lack of ruthlessness that smacks of naivete and inexperience.

"You can call it mental toughness," McClennan said. "That's what some people will call it when we are not able to rectify a situation when things are going wrong. But I think it is game awareness and communicating with each other. The first thing that happens when things aren't going right is sometimes players go quiet - and that is the worst thing to do.

"When I look at the team and they are communicating with each other we never really have many problems. But as soon as we start getting quiet we are in trouble."

- NZ Herald

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