NRL: Team ignore distractions of other crucial clashes

By David Skipwith

Warriors back-rower Feleti Mateo will make a late dash to Sydney from a funeral in Tonga for the must-win game against Penrith. Photo / Getty Images
Warriors back-rower Feleti Mateo will make a late dash to Sydney from a funeral in Tonga for the must-win game against Penrith. Photo / Getty Images

Coach Andrew McFadden says the Warriors need to put the distractions of the other weekend matches out of their minds as they prepare for their crunch game against the Panthers.

Sunday's match at Penrith is the final NRL game of the regular season, with a number of other key clashes happening over the weekend that could affect the Warriors' final standings.

"We'll have to try and stay away from what happens on the weekend," McFadden said.

"Our real priority for this game is performance, then we'll give ourselves a chance, so the instructions will be to forget about the other stuff that goes on," he added.

The Warriors will be hoping that the Storm topple the Broncos by nine points or more in tonight's clash in Melbourne, and that the Raiders get up at home over the Eels on Saturday night, to allow them the chance of still making the eight should they lose to Penrith.

Should they achieve the desired result against the Panthers, an upset win by the Titans over the Bulldogs on Saturday would promote the Auckland team to seventh.

McFadden says the significance of the game and the surrounding intrigue of other results has not changed their approach or preparation.

"No, not really. There's got to be a build-up every week. It is a big game but it doesn't change the way we prepare for it. There will be lots of distractions and that's why it's really important to minimise them."

Halfback Shaun Johnson agreed they are best to ignore what unfolds over the weekend and focus on producing their best performance. The 23-year-old playmaker intends on deviating from his recent habit of watching games to avoid getting preoccupied by the many different scenarios which could affect their playoff hopes.

"I have been but I don't know if I'll watch too much this weekend," Johnson said.

"With us being the last game we don't want to do our heads in too much. We just need to enjoy each other's company.

"We understand it's a big game regardless, we know that if we win we've got a good chance of being there so that's all we should be focusing on."

Meanwhile, Melbourne are on high alert for Justin Hodges, painfully aware of the devastation he can wreak for Brisbane from fullback in tonight's game.

Hodges' shift from centre to fullback has been pivotal in Brisbane's surge into finals contention. "Whenever you get a dangerous player and you get the footy in his hands as much as possible he's going to cause you some problems," said Storm fullback Billy Slater.

"He [Hodges] has been playing some great footy over the last month when he's had that roving role.

"He's set up a fair few of their tries over the last fortnight and it's something that we're going to have to be very wary of."

While Melbourne are wary of Hodges, Slater warned that fellow test star Sam Thaiday's suspension this week was a big blow for Brisbane.

"He's a huge loss."

- NZ Herald

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