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

League: Warriors need to bury history of hoodoo

Ali Lauitiiti of the Warriors during a New Zealand Warriors NRL training session. Photo / Getty Images
Ali Lauitiiti of the Warriors during a New Zealand Warriors NRL training session. Photo / Getty Images

For the Warriors this season is as much about burying hoodoos, as meeting expectations.

Over the last four years the Auckland club has gained some unenviable character traits.

They don't travel well, they often fade out of games that should be won and habitually lose their way after the State of Origin period. They also have a reputation for being slow starters to a season.

All that has to change this year, starting tonight against the Wests Tigers.

The Tigers haven't been a good side for years, but have looked like world beaters the last two twice the Warriors have travelled to Campbelltown, notching in excess of 50 points each time. It's been a bogey ground, where the Warriors haven't tasted victory since 2008.

The Warriors also have an awful record in their opening game. Their last round one win came in 2009 and since then there has been losses to the Titans (2010), Eels (2011, 2013 and 2014), Sea Eagles (2012) and Knights (2015). Of those teams, only the Titans and Sea Eagles made the playoffs.

There can't be any such false starts this season, not with a trip to Suncorp Stadium to face the Broncos six days from now.

"We have to set the standard from the start," said Warriors captain Ryan Hoffman. "We have had a good pre-season, we've prepared well and now we have to produce it on the field."

Manu Vatuvei was there the last time the Warriors' victory song was heard on opening day, one of just four survivors (Simon Mannering, Ben Matulino and Jacob Lillyman are the others) from the 26-18 win over the Eels in 2009. Tonight he begins his 12th NRL season.

"We all know what is expected and we are confident we can do it," said Vatuvei. "There is a good feeling among the boys."

Vatuvei is at the end of a backline that needs to be considerably more productive than last season, when they were often wasteful on attack and porous on defence.

The Tigers boast the likes of Aaron Woods, Tim Grant and James Tedesco but have been weakened by losing Robbie Farah and Matt Ballin.

Halfback Luke Brooks and utility Dene Halatau (both suspended) are also out, which surely tips the balance in favour of a full strength Warriors line-up.

- NZ Herald

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