Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess: Time for Warriors to deliver

Tuimoala Lolohea in action during the round 14 NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the New Zealand Warriors. Photo / Getty Images.
Tuimoala Lolohea in action during the round 14 NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the New Zealand Warriors. Photo / Getty Images.

It's time for the Warriors to make a statement.

On Saturday night at Mt Smart against the Panthers the Auckland club have to deliver.

It doesn't really matter how they do it - but the Warriors need to bank the two points this evening.

There can't be any more "what ifs" or "if onlys", cursing rotten luck, the bounce of the ball, a strange refereeing call or an untimely lapse.

The Warriors are as close to full strength as could be hoped for at this stage of the season, and have been less affected by injuries than in previous years. They have a spine that has played plenty of matches together and a forward pack that has developed combinations.

Penrith are a good side - a very good side on recent evidence - but they aren't in the top bracket like the Storm, Cowboys or Sharks. And the Warriors are at home, and should have revenge on their mind against the Panthers.

Not just for the round 10 loss in Christchurch earlier this year, but also for the last-season misery inflicted in recent years by the Western Sydney club. In 2012 a defeat to the Panthers at Mt Smart was enough to end Brian McClennan's tenure at the Warriors and a round 23 home loss in 2013 took the club's finals destiny out of their own hands.

The most infamous episode was in 2014, when the Warriors travelled to Penrith for the last round of the season knowing that even a defeat by a small margin would seal a place in the finals. Unfortunately the Warriors produced one of their most insipid performances of the season, meekly falling to a 22-6 defeat.

It's also time for the Warriors to come up with a true 80-minute display. If there is one major criticism of their season so far, it's been an inability to produce two solid halves of football on a week to week basis. Only in the wins over the Bulldogs (Wellington), Broncos (Mt Smart) and Roosters (Mt Smart) have the Warriors managed top quality displays across an entire match.

"We know how important this match is," said Warriors back David Fusitua. "It's a big game for our season. We have been playing well and now it is time to get the result."

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