Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh McGahan: It's time for the Warriors to start winning again

Will Chambers and the Storm have again started the season strongly. Photo / Getty Images
Will Chambers and the Storm have again started the season strongly. Photo / Getty Images

There is still a long way to go this season and it's too early to write off any team but we have, once again, seen the value of a good start to a campaign.

The Rabbitohs, Broncos, Storm, Raiders and even Wests Tigers have it. The Warriors do not.

The Warriors rarely start well - they haven't won their opening game of the season since 2009 - and it puts them under even more pressure than they are usually exposed to. Expectations around the club are always high, being the only NRL team in the country, and criticism can come early if they make a poor start to the season.

The rhetoric coming out of the club is really good - they're all upbeat and saying the right things - but you wonder if they really believe it. Players and coaches always say they don't take notice of what is being said about them but that's nonsense and it's impossible not to get a sense even from what people ask them.

That increases pressure and makes players react in strange ways.

I have no idea why the Warriors are poor starters but the warning signs were there when they were thumped by 40 points in their final pre-season game by Dragons. This should have been the game when combinations and game plans were being fine-tuned.

Teams should come out of pre-season with confidence high and expecting to win, not hoping.

Contrast the Warriors' early season form to the Storm, today's opponents at Mt Smart Stadium. Melbourne have won their opening game for the past 12 seasons.

It's little wonder they've reached the playoffs each of the past 14 years, except for 2010, when they couldn't accrue points because of the salary cap debacle. And they would have made it that year, too.

A good start takes pressure off everyone and players can go into games without outside distractions.

Look what is going on at the Wests Tigers. Jason Taylor was apparently going to be the first coach sacked this season but no one was talking about Taylor after two wins from two ahead of last night's game.

Warriors owner Eric Watson said a few days ago Andrew McFadden is "not going anywhere". He was commenting on suggestions his coach could soon be sacked but we shouldn't read too much into that. He said the same things about Matt Elliott, who was axed five games into the 2012 season, and Bluey McClennan, who was sacked later that year. I'm sure Watson will change his tune if the Warriors still find themselves in trouble after seven or eight games.

The Warriors really should have won at least two of their first four games - they still might if they beat the Storm today and Knights next weekend - but the pressure will really come on if they are 0-4.

I still think the Warriors will come right at some stage this season - they have too much quality in their squad not to make an impact - but it's a question of when they burst into life. It can't come soon enough.

- Herald on Sunday

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Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh Joseph McGahan MBE was a renowned rugby league player and coach who represented New Zealand in no less than 53 test matches, captaining 17 of them. Beginning his career in Auckland he later moved to Sydney where he played over 100 matches for the Roosters, finishing his career in 1991 as captain-coach of the eastern Sydney outfit. Accolades were never far away from the impressive Kiwi lock and in 1987 McGahan jointly won the prestigious Golden Boot Award, the first row forward at the time to win the award. Hugh McGahan’s international career was similarly impressive coming to the fore in 1982 after scoring a remarkable six tries for the Kiwis against Papua New Guinea in Auckland. Hugh Mcgahan ended his career with distinguished honours as he was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to rugby and later inducted into the NZRL Legends of League. He continues to write sports columns for the New Zealand Herald.

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