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

League: WANTED - A strong New Zealand Warriors side

A New Zealand-based NRL team to compete with the best that Australia has to offer. A team that entertains, enraptures and engages. A squad that harnesses the unique mix of talent found in this country, alongside appropriate imports. A team to be proud of, to believe in and be part of. A team that knows how it wants to play. A team that absorbs the best practices of previous NRL champions, without forgetting its own identity and style. A team that recognises its unique cultural make-up as a strength, rather than an issue or a weakness. A team that never, ever, gives up...
Vodafone NZ Warriors. Photo / Nick Reed.
Vodafone NZ Warriors. Photo / Nick Reed.

As the Warriors lurch towards another mini-crisis, there are questions that need to be asked.

They are certainly being posed by their loyal fans, up and down the length of the country.

How did things get so complicated? How is this Warriors team in such a hole?

It was never meant to be like this. One of the best rosters assembled in the history of the club, currently stuck in the lower reaches of the NRL table.

The Warriors, who face the Bulldogs at Westpac Stadium tonight, have a tough road back to a winning record, let alone a position in the top four or six. And unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a clear idea of who the best 17 might be, nor how the team is going to use them.

There is also no defined playing style. We all know how the Storm, Rabbitohs, Sharks and Cowboys are going to play in any given week, but among the Warriors there are different ideas on how they should play. Some talk about playing an up tempo game - high speed, high risk and full of highlights.

Others emphasise forward dominance and an up the middle approach, before 'winning' the right to get creative.

Week to week in 2016, there has been no strict pattern; or certainly no adherence to one.

But perhaps most concerning of all, this year's Warriors outfit have yet to prove they have extinguished three traits that have dogged their predecessors over the last four or five years. One is the unfortunate tendency for not one, or two, but 10, 11 or 12 players to all have poor games simultaneously on any given day. It's a terminal recipe in the NRL. A team can carry a couple of passengers in a match, but any more and they will be found out. That's what we saw in the Tigers match in round one, and what was on display last week against Manly.

The second lingering trait is apparent indifference to defeat. Whatever is happening "inside the walls", the perception on the outside remains that this team doesn't hate losing enough. Contrast that with the Sharks, Storm, Cowboys, Sea Eagles, Bulldogs et al - clubs that may get beaten but never just simply fold.

The third trait is an inability to produce an 80 minute performance, to focus and concentrate for a full match. More than anything, that's what leads to displays like last Saturday, full of momentum-killing errors on attack and defence.

However, all is not lost. From what the Warriors have displayed in patches this year, the team has the resolve and skill to progress from here and still be a factor come the finals in September. But the turnaround needs to start soon.

- NZ Herald

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