It has been six long years since Warriors fans went into a Christmas period knowing their side had just made the NRL finals.

A lot has happened in those six years.

As Christmas approached in 2011 Warriors fans were full of confidence having seen their side go to its second NRL Grand Final. Sure, they were soundly beaten by a better Manly side but there were any number of reasons to be optimistic. The Junior Warriors were going great-guns, Shaun Johnson had enjoyed a breakout rookie season and the likeable Brian McClennan was taking over as head coach. McClennan had won everywhere he had been and was promising to get the best out of the Warriors.

Businessman Sir Owen Glenn bought a share of the club and together with Eric Watson they promised to turn the Warriors into the leading sports franchise in Australasia.

Happier times. The Warriors line-up for the 2011 Grand Final. Photo / Getty Images
Happier times. The Warriors line-up for the 2011 Grand Final. Photo / Getty Images

It didn't work out of course. McClennan had lost the dressing room by the halfway point in the 2012 season as the Warriors tumbled out of Finals contention – a theme that would repeat itself over the following seasons.

Since the Warriors last made the playoffs McClennan, Matthew Elliott and Andrew McFadden have come and gone as head coaches. A total of 50 players have made their first grade debuts during that span while the likes of Konrad Hurrell, Sam Tomkins and Tui Lolohea have begun and finished their Warriors careers.

Every year Warriors fans found some new reason to be optimistic about their club's chances in the following NRL season. The recruitment of superstars like Tomkins, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Issac Luke and Kieran Foran convinced fans they had found the missing piece but each time the results went the same way.

That can't be said of season 2018. For whatever reason – anything from a dose of reality to outright apathy – Warriors fans don't seem to be as excited for what lies in store. Maybe that is a good thing.

I have no evidence to put forward but my gut tells me the weight of expectation has had a hand in the crash Warriors sides experienced in the back end of each season since 2012. When things go wrong after high expectations, it is easy for the wheels to fall off.

The weird thing is that I see some small reasons to be optimistic about 2018. I don't think the Warriors have one of the eight best rosters in the NRL but I do feel they will be a more competitive side entering next year. Without the weight of expectation could they fly under the radar and quietly go about improved results?

Their signings for next year aren't at the pointy end of the roster like with Tomkins, Tuivasa-Sheck, Luke or Foran, but they will improve the side.

Ultimately odds are that the playoff drought will continue for a seventh season but this side might well stay in the fight longer and benefit from an off-season without hype.