NRL: Warriors have no reason to smile

By Michael Brown

Losing by a record margin and sitting on the bottom of the NRL ladder is no laughing matter but you wouldn't know it by the response of some Warriors players on Saturday night. Photo / Getty Images.
Losing by a record margin and sitting on the bottom of the NRL ladder is no laughing matter but you wouldn't know it by the response of some Warriors players on Saturday night. Photo / Getty Images.

Losing by a record margin and sitting on the bottom of the NRL ladder is no laughing matter but you wouldn't know it by the response of some Warriors players on Saturday night.

The Warriors slumped to a record 62-6 defeat to the Panthers and the sight of some of them laughing and joking among themselves and with opposition players afterwards was galling for fans who had just sat through 80 minutes of one of the most disgraceful performances in the club's history.

It was hard, at that point, to work out what was worse - the heavy defeat or the fact it didn't seem to matter to some players?

Perception can mean everything at times like this. Fans don't know how hard players work in training and in the gym and can only judge them on what they see in games. What they saw on Saturday was dreadful and what happened afterwards did little more than marginalise fringe fans and irritate even the most loyal.

They needed to look like defeat mattered, that they would do everything in their powers to turn things around the following week and they would be hurting for a couple of days. Not a couple of seconds.

It even drew the attention of television commentators who implored the players to get off the field before any more damage was done to the club's image.

Coach Matt Elliott hadn't seen the footage when he arrived at Auckland airport this afternoon - he had watched the game twice on TV but on both occasions coverage stopped before the aftermatch scenes - but was aware of what was being said because chief executive Wayne Scurrah had briefed him on it immediately after the match.

"If what's been reported to me by club officials is true, I'm unhappy about that,'' he said sternly.

Later on 40/20 he used the analogy of catching up with friends while at a friend's funeral.

"You don't start slapping and high-fiving as soon as you get out of the service. There's another place and forum to do that.''

The players were all summoned to Mt Smart Stadium soon after they arriving back in Auckland for a dressing down by Elliott and Scurrah.

"Regardless of the reason for the smiles, it was a totally inappropriate time and place to do it,'' Scurrah said. "Matt has addressed it and I have addressed it.''

The Warriors are critical to the health of rugby league in this country and if they aren't performing, the game suffers. If they don't look like they care, that can do irreparable damage.

There's a concern things come too easily to some Warriors players because too many make the transition to first grade at a young age. They haven't been through the hard yards, it's often said, and don't appreciate what they have. Images like last night will do little to dispel that perception.

Some, like captain Simon Mannering, were visibly shaken by what had just happened. He looked ashen faced and spoke of his embarrassment at being humiliated by a team who only a fortnight earlier were seen as favourites for the wooden spoon.

All of the players looked demoralised and like they couldn't wait to get out of the airport and away from the public's prying eyes when they arrived back this afternoon.

By then, it was too late. The only way they will repair their image is stringing a handful of wins together.

Only then might they be entitled to smile.

- APNZ

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