The Warriors have given us something new this season - an air of hopelessness and of a team which seemingly has lost not just the ability to win but to recover it.

They are also clearly missing an element even hardened professionals value: fun. It must be dire pulling on a Warriors jersey these days, knowing most of the watching world is unhappy with them and that the result is almost pre-ordained.

Coach Stephen Kearney is unhappy; he would have made wholesale changes after the latest debacle - if he'd had better players to swap in. The media are unhappy; the finger of blame has jabbed everywhere now with one columnist even calling on owner Eric Watson to fire himself.

Sell the club, he meant, though who'd want to buy it? Bidding for the Warriors right now would be like purchasing shares in the Titanic after you'd heard about the iceberg.

The players are unhappy - their body language makes that obvious. Everyone is pointing out (wise after the event, as we critics often get to be) the Warriors roster is deficient, an analysis all the more bitter because most expected them to challenge the top four this year and certainly make the playoffs.


I'd even suggest the fans are unhappy if it weren't for the curious psychological phenomenon of the way fans of teams which lose consistently stay constant. One US study called it birfing, a term from the study's conclusion such fans are Basking In Reflected Failure (BIRF).

It occurs when people who identify with the losing team almost glory in their togetherness. The shrinks who ran the study said the sport was the platform for the fans to band together; they might not even like the team they were supporting at times but they valued the sanctity of the "in" group and wore their faith as "real" fans as a badge.

That explains Chicago Cubs fans over the 108 years they had to wait for a World Series win, a drought characterised by some poor performances and much fun poked at the Cubs, some by their own fans.

But when you look at the Warriors, it's hard not to think of the Buffalo Bills - the American football team with a 17-year absence from the playoffs for the Super Bowl.

The Bills are only team to win four consecutive conference championships in NFL history and the only team to lose four consecutive Super Bowl games, a wound which has refused to heal as they failed to make the playoffs every year since. They are the only NFL side not to make a playoff in the 21st century; they've tried eight coaches in 17 years.

Like the Warriors, they had a good roster but something went wrong in their heads. They became unable to win crunch matches and some draft players were quality when imported but quickly became ordinary - a syndrome Warriors fans know only too well.

Sam Tomkins, Issac Luke and Kieran Foran have been the latest examples. The cost goes further than just not drawing the best out of the stars: it signals other top players to avoid a club which could suck the talent out of them.

No one is happy with the Warriors' so-called development. Supposedly a club committed to producing homegrown talent, the latest criticism is they have succeeded only in turning out youngsters not ready for first grade.

Kearney has copped it too - his critics say he has coached the colour out of the Warriors by insisting on structure and discipline, an approach which has seen stats like set completions rocket among the best in the NRL. Yet the Warriors have often looked bereft in attack, the old razzle-dazzle long gone.

Losing has become a habit hard to break and it may take two or three years to get the supply of homegrown young players flowing properly. Meanwhile major imported talent may shun Mt Smart.

What to do? Somehow this club has to find people to spot good young Australian talent who won't bust the bank and can develop, plus replace most of a misfiring pack. The backs could stay largely intact but the forwards need major renovations.

Only the legendary Simon Mannering, James Gavet and Nathaniel Roache seem worth hanging on to. There is a case for keeping Luke as he has shown before what he can do in a dominant set of forwards.

Criticism is so sharp the prospect of Kiwis prop Adam Blair has already been dismissed as a tired old player past his best. Blair, however, may bring some missing edge.

After two poor seasons, the Manly Sea Eagles shipped out 31 players, including stars, and have re-built cost-effectively. Going into this weekend, they were seventh and have a good shot at the top four - though questions are being asked about their salary cap.

So a wholesale clear-out can work if you select the right replacements. If not, everyone who watches the Warriors had better get used to birfing.