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

NRL: Warriors must fire away

New Zealand team have a major problem winning in Australia, and it is killing their chances at a title.
The Warriors have a poor record across the Tasman, particularly against the Dragons. Photo / Getty Images
The Warriors have a poor record across the Tasman, particularly against the Dragons. Photo / Getty Images

If the Warriors are to shine this season, they urgently need to find a way to improve their record in Australia.

Their form across the Tasman has been a major Achilles heel over the past four seasons since Ivan Cleary left the club at the end of 2011.

The Warriors didn't manage more than four wins in Australia in a year between 2012 and 2015, with an average win ratio of 31.85 per cent. A record of just four wins from 23 games against the Dragons is indicative of the club's struggles.

That won't be anywhere near good enough to achieve their ultimate aim of an NRL premiership, or even to be a top four or top six contender, this year.

Look at the record of recent champions. Last year, the Cowboys were outstanding away from their Townsville base, despite facing similar travel hurdles to the Warriors, and lost only three of 12 regular season games on the road.

In 2014, the Rabbitohs won 66 per cent of their away games and the Roosters (83 per cent) dropped just two away games in 2013, although both those Sydney teams face significant travel advantages.

The Storm also set a high standard in 2012, winning eight of their 12 matches away from Melbourne.

"It was a little bit different as it was only an hour or a 90-minute flight," Ryan Hoffman recalls of his time at the Storm.

"[But] the attitude at the Storm was that Melbourne was not going to get any closer to Sydney or Brisbane, so there is no point worrying about it. You just have to deal with it. A lot came down to the individual. With a lot of new players, we had to educate them, especially the Sydney players."

The Warriors have tried various formulas over the years. They've travelled later, left earlier, stayed on in Australia and taken advice from other sports franchises, particularly the Breakers.

During the 2013 season, Matt Elliott and his staff tried a range of theories - they travelled with an EMS machine (electrical muscle stimulation) and had the team doing extra sessions in the pool.

But they haven't been able to get near the golden days of the 2002 and 2003 seasons, when they achieved 70 and 60 per cent win ratios in Australia in the regular season.

"We tried a lot of things in 2013 and 2014, especially with technologies," said coach Andrew McFadden. "But we found that, even though there might have been some benefit, the stress of having to do all of these things outweighed the benefits you get from a physiological point of view. It was just too much and wasn't really needed."

Now the Warriors are taking a simplified approach, trying to keep to the same procedures they adopt at home.

"We usually travel the day before and take our own food [provided by the club]," said Simon Mannering. "We used to have to travel with all of our gear and have to wait at baggage claim and to have our boots checked etc. Now all that goes through with management and we just have carry-on."

But whatever the systems, and the undoubted physical effects of travel, the Warriors have to master the mental side of performing away from Mt Smart in front of hostile crowds and unsympathetic referees, starting this afternoon, against the Roosters at Central Coast Stadium.

"Our aim is to not to make a big deal out of having to travel, never use it as an excuse," said Mannering. "It's got to be an attitude thing. It doesn't matter where you are playing. You have just got to perform. We haven't done that consistently for a while."

- Herald on Sunday

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 02 Oct 2016 00:20:41 Processing Time: 450ms