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

League: Favourable draw puts finals within reach again

Warrior Tui Lolohea shows off his speed as he fends off a Roosters attack. Photo / Getty Images
Warrior Tui Lolohea shows off his speed as he fends off a Roosters attack. Photo / Getty Images

Quite incredibly, given what has happened so far this season, the Warriors have a golden chance to play finals football this season.

Not only are they on the cusp of the top eight right now but they also have a favourable draw. As far as run-ins go, the Warriors couldn't have hoped for much better.

They still have to play the Sharks on the Shire next weekend and the Cowboys in Townsville in round 24, but don't play any other team in the top four. And five of their remaining 10 games are against bottom-eight sides.

Roosters (h), Sharks (a), Titans (h), Sea Eagles (a), Raiders (a), Panthers (h), Rabbitohs (h), Cowboys (a), Tigers (h) and Eels (h) ... it should give fans cause for hope. And they might even look forward to a home playoffs match.

That's only if the Warriors are good enough. And that's a big if.

If there's one thing we've learned about the Warriors over the years, it's to not take anything for granted. After all, they were fourth at about this time last year and then went on to lose their last eight games.

They have a history of falling over just when you start getting excited about them.

It makes today's game against the Rooster crucial. They simply have to win against a side rooted near the bottom of the table and continue their recent resurgence.

If not, the doubts will resurface again.

Last year, of course, they were hobbled by the season-ending injury to Shaun Johnson.

They should have been able to cope, because they had the personnel, but they essentially talked themselves out of achieving anything. When the coach says it's going to be tough to win without their halfback, players start believing it.

That would be the critical thing if something similar happened this campaign.

Hopefully they have learned from their mistakes and an injury to someone like Johnson or Tui Lolohea won't derail their season if it happened this time around.

One thing that concerns me is the relationship of the players with the media.

They appear surly and distrustful and are offering little more than standard one-liners.

If this is part of a siege mentality and it helps them to win games, then fine. After all, winning is the most important thing. But it's a risky strategy and could have consequences later if they start losing again.

They should address the media as if they are talking to fans because, by extension, that's what they are doing.

It reminds me of a quote I often use with the young players I deal with now as a high school rugby coach.

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood," Nobel prize winner Marie Curie once said. "Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less."

It would help the Warriors players if they understood the media so they don't fear them, which seems to be the case at the moment.

- Herald on Sunday

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