Whatever happens come September, the Warriors' 50-10 loss to the Melbourne Storm will be momentous for one of two reasons.

Either it was the beginning of the demise of the hottest team in the opening rounds a la St George Illawarra Dragons in 2017 or it stoked the fire that took them on a deep playoff run.

In 40 minutes of Anzac Day carnage, the Warriors went from being the form side in the NRL to a mirror of the team that has gone six seasons without a playoff appearance.

Melbourne pounced on every slight fumble, defensive misread and missed tackle to score seven first-half tries (and a Cameron Smith penalty goal to boot) to nearly concede a point a minute, ending 38-0 down at the end of the first stanza.


Maybe it was down to a faultless Melbourne effort - they didn't concede an error until the 32nd minute of the contest.

Maybe the Warriors were still feeling the impact of their most impressive performance of the last six years when they tackled the house down in beating the Dragons 20-12.

Most likely it was a perfect amalgamated concoction that happened to be served on a short turnaround week.

Usually there wouldn't be much cause for panic. The Warriors are 6-2 for good reason but you don't have to cast your mind too far back to find a spate of poor defensive outings.

One could not overestimate how much they missed Tohu Harris on the defensive end and Shaun Johnson, James Gavet and Isaac Luke on the attacking side of the ball.

The players looked spent early and lacked the enthusiasm on defence that is required when taking on a team like Melbourne.

In the aftermath, Smith brought up an excellent point that the Warriors need to heed going forward.

"Every team is aiming up against them and it takes a lot of effort week by week to stay up for those big games, so it would have been extremely hard for them to come here tonight."


In sport the allure of beating the leading side always takes a side to a different level. Most international sides rise to new heights when taking on the All Blacks, likewise the Australian cricket sides of the early to mid-2000s.

The Warriors haven't really accomplished anything but sitting on top of the table early on has put a giant target on their back.

Everyone will want to bring them back down to the pack so the Warriors need to show the defensive consistency required to be a Premiership contender.

They've got the talent and fitness this year so all they need now is the mental mettle.

Kearney, an astute judge of the game, will stay away from wholesale changes and look to continue to develop the group he has out there.

The only long-term change from the last couple of weeks will be the reintroduction of Johnson at halfback.

Calls to anoint Mason Lino as Johnson's immediate replacement need to be tempered.

Lino shows great capability at halfback but his performance on Wednesday behind a back-pedalling pack was exactly the kind that saw Johnson crucified in previous years.

Warriors fans should be stoked they have such a handy backup as they do in Lino but to promote him ahead of Johnson, who has been in strong early season form, would be a bad move.

Johnson, in what was deemed a poor season from the star half in 2017, was third in try assists. With Blake Green inside him we could see Johnson firmly establish himself as a premier NRL halfback, where he should be given his abundant talents.

So no, it isn't either panic stations or celebratory drinks at Mt Smart Stadium yet. But the season is still young.