Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Streak among club's best

The Warriors of 2008 also turned around a sluggish start to the season. Photo / Getty Images
The Warriors of 2008 also turned around a sluggish start to the season. Photo / Getty Images

The current winning streak could be the best in the Warriors' history, given the unlikely circumstances.

Heading into tonight's match against the top of the table Rabbitohs, the Warriors have five wins on the bounce. That has only been bettered twice before in the club's 19-year history - an eight-game unbeaten run in the Grand Final year of 2002 and a spell of six victories in the inaugural season of 1995.

There have been several other five-match winning streaks but probably none that have come in such unforeseen circumstances, given where they had been.

It's easy to forget now but the Warriors were on the ropes just seven weeks ago. Apart from the carnage at Penrith, the team had won just two matches in 10 games. Much of the squad remained from the 2012 season, where the club's victory song hadn't been heard since the first week of July.

Confidence had been ground down after a series of last quarter fade-outs and there were serious questions about the future of coach Matt Elliott and his management team.

Players looked anxious - preoccupied with avoiding mistakes rather than sparking play - and it seemed a long road back.

In the past, the Warriors have demonstrated an ability to bounce back from heavy defeats but the turnaround has rarely been sustained. Teams would win one or two on adrenalin, then lose a couple.

This time, after the crucial round 11 win over the Knights, they have scalped two genuine top four contenders (Roosters, Manly), another top eight side (Knights), as well as a team that should be nearer the top eight than the bottom of the ladder (Brisbane).

Shaun Johnson had been inconsistent as a rookie NRL goalkicker, now he hasn't missed since the first half of the match in Brisbane (15 consecutive kicks).

Their defence has in the space of a few weeks become one of the more solid in the NRL, as they have given up just 68 points (13.6 per game) since the Penrith match.

To add to that, Elliott has, for the first time in his long career, coached a side to five wins in a row.

Warriors' golden runs:

2002, Eight wins, Round 7 to 14

Starting with a win over Melbourne at home, Daniel Anderson's side remained unbeaten for well over two months. While there is no such thing as an easy two points, six of these wins were against teams that finished in the bottom half of the ladder. However, this was a formidable Warriors outfit, with a brutal and skilful forward pack, a well-balanced backline and Stacey Jones at his peak. After reaching the play-offs in 2001, this team finished Minor Premiers in 2002.

1995, Six wins, Round 13 to 18

With 20 teams, including expansion teams in Auckland, South Queensland, Western Australia and North Queensland, this was the season of the 'haves' and the 'have nots'. The Warriors were meant to be in the former category, with Kiwis stars supplemented by experienced Australian and English internationals - but they were inconsistent. They lost six of their first 12 and this streak, while meritorious, came at the expense of three expansion clubs (Crushers, Reds and Cowboys) and competition lightweights including the Rabbitohs and the Gold Coast (both of whom won just four of 22 matches in dismal seasons).

2011, Five wins, Round 7 to 11

After losing four of their first six matches, Ivan Cleary's side got back on the rails with successive wins over the Storm, Panthers, Titans, Knights and Rabbitohs. This was a side with proven qualities - they had finished sixth the season before - and three of the teams that they beat finished outside the top eight.

2008, Eight wins in 10 games, Round 16-26

Not a consecutive streak, but a run of top form that ranks alongside this year's effort. The team had won only five of their first 14 games and their play-off hopes looked buried. Before the round 16 game at Leichhardt Oval, the team were in a serious rut - having lost five of their previous six games. They sneaked home against the Tigers (28-26) and then embarked on a memorable run, dedicated to the retiring Ruben Wiki and decorated by the team growing beards. Led by Steve Price, they beat three top eight sides (Melbourne, Brisbane and Cronulla) and penetrated the top eight, eventually reaching the Preliminary Final.

2003, Five wins, Rounds 2 to 6

Coming off their Grand Final appearance the year before, expectations were high and this Warriors team (mostly) delivered. They beat the Bulldogs, Sea Eagles, Rabbitohs, Broncos and Cowboys in successive weeks and went on to reach the Preliminary Final, before being shaded by Penrith.

- Herald on Sunday

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