Eleven things Chris Rattue learned from the Warriors' surprising victory march and stunning win over the Knights.
1) The impending loss of Todd Payten is now officially a disaster. Payten may have spotted greener pastures elsewhere - he is tipped for the Cowboys - and had personal reasons for wanting a return to Australia. But I will also surmise that some of the comments and actions of owner Mark Robinson will have unsettled Payten, and made him worry about whether the club would provide him with a stable platform. Whatever the reasons, he turned himself into the outstanding candidate to take over from the sacked Stephen Kearney on a full-time basis.
2) At the moment, if he was eligible, Todd Payten would be my New Zealand sports coach of the year. Captain Extraordinaire Roger Tuivasa-Sheck should be seen as the frontrunner for Sportsperson of the Year in what is, admittedly, a very limited field because of Covid-19.
3) Incoming coach Nathan Brown is suddenly under the sort of pressure which might not make his job any easier. On one hand, Payten and his assistants such as Justin Morgan, and recruitment boss Peter O'Sullivan, have given him a stronger-than-expected squad to work with. But the expectations have risen. It's a little similar to a situation nearly a decade ago, when a grand final run under Ivan Cleary left new coach Brian "Bluey" McClennan in an awkward spot he couldn't deal with. The current squad will feel disorientated if Brown starts dismantling what Payten has set up. It also raises the interesting question where Morgan, Payten's impressive defence specialist, will fit in with the new regime.
4) Here's a laugh. The Warriors can go into the 2021 season as Queensland's best team, if they are forced to relocate to the Redcliffe club in Brisbane because of Covid-19. The Broncos are in disarray and the Cowboys have fallen apart. The Titans are on the rise, particularly with Mal Meninga on their side, but the Warriors should finish above them on the table. And I'll sneak this thought in here - the Warriors are a better team when they are based away from Auckland and the mysterious forces which seem to distract them here.
5) Chanel Harris-Tavita will give the Warriors the long-term kicking game they have always dreamed of. His composure and patience was sensational against the Knights. He is also a fantastic defender.
6) Enjoyment should never be under-estimated as a key factor in any winning side. But which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Winning brings enjoyment, enjoyment brings winning. But as Payten points out, the Warriors look in love with the game. Maybe that obvious enjoyment will help keep Tuivasa-Sheck away from rugby's clutches, if there was any danger of that.
7) Smaller, compact suburban grounds work great for rugby league. It's something ARL Commission boss Peter V'landys believes in, in contrast to his departed NRL CEO Todd Greenberg. Those promoting Eden Park as a new home for the Warriors need to be treated with tremendous suspicion. League needs to retain Mt Smart and its own identity - it's not there to prop up rugby's stretched finance. Auckland City should talk to V'landys about his views on suburban grounds as a community asset.
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8) The players who quit the Warriors in Australia may have done themselves in. One of the golden rules in sport is never give another man a chance to take your position. I know they had their reasons, but most of the departed players haven't been missed. Agnatius Paasi is a decent forward but he's been shown up by the rescue acts like Jack Murchie, Jack Hetherington and Daniel Alvaro. But the player under biggest contract pressure will be David Fusitu'a. He is on massive money - it's very unusual for a wing to be one of the highest-paid players at a club. Fusitu'a is looking like a costly surplus to requirements. Ken Maumalo deserves a more generous appraisal though.
9) I'll willingly drop my belief that Tuivasa-Sheck should be replaced as captain by Jazz Tevaga. I still believe the amazing Tuivasa-Sheck would be even better without the main leadership job. It is very difficult to captain from the back, because fullback is such an exhausting and all-action position. But through a tough year camped in Aussie, his follow-me leadership has turned out to be amazing. And his attack is starting to flourish.
10) Centre Peta Hiku reigns. There have always been plusses and minuses to Hiku's game, his defence a particular problem. But the pros are now heavily outweighing the cons for the big centre. His trademark move is to slide and fend his way just outside his marker, hold up the wing defender, and feed his right wing with a one handed backflip. It works almost every time, and it certainly worked for Adam Pompey in Tamworth. Their growing combination is putting the pressure on absent and highly-paid wings Fusitu'a and Maumalo.
11) Depth is the key to any squad. The Warriors now have it in many positions. It drives the incumbents on and covers for injuries. But there is a growing quandary for the Warriors - who do they let go? Or who wants out? With Murchie signed, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Kane Evans and Euan Aitken on the way, and the club still chasing Toby Rudolf, and with players like Leeson Ah Mau and Patrick Herbert to return from injury, there is a squeeze on. The still-injured Bunty Afoa looks to be one of the casualties.