Three years ago, I wrote a rather angry column headlined "Time Warriors started afresh". But they didn't get rid of a whole mess of players and start over.

Three years of pain and frustration have passed and here we are again. Warriors fans - the diehards who continue to turn up to Mt Smart - deserve medals; they rate among the most loyal on the planet.

Three years on from that call to dump plenty of players from the roster, it's time to make it again. This time, however, the feeling has changed. It's not anger steaming to the surface now - it's sadness.

Sad because this club has found itself in a Groundhog Day they can't seem to figure out. Remember the Bill Murray movie? He played a smart-ass weatherman locked in a repeating time loop, doomed to live the same day over and over.


He tries to break out of it by going on binges, one-night stands and being a bit of a hoon. Doesn't work. He wakes up to the same day each day, resigned to repeating it - before he breaks the spell by improving his character and ability.

You get the drift. The Warriors have been in that same time lock but haven't broken out. Binges? Hoons? There was that mindless prescription drugs/energy drinks debacle last year. Three years ago came a 62-6 club record hiding from Penrith - after which the players smiled and seemed genuinely unconcerned, triggering fan blowback and that angry column.

They seem destined to go on forever making the same mistakes, though there is one development this year ... they seem to have forgotten how to attack.

But I can't be angry with them any more. It's too dismal. Dale Budge, a man who knows his league as well as anyone, recently wrote the Warriors have "losing DNA" now. Reluctantly, you have to agree.

Multiple changes of coach haven't worked. When the Warriors buy marquee players, something happens to them; a kind of invisible talent extraction. They become much more ordinary.

England fullback Sam Tomkins was an example; even stars such as Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke, big names in Australia, haven't yet lived up to their reputations in a Warriors jersey. Tuivasa-Sheck hasn't had much of a go so far but, in any case, it's unlikely one player can lift the Warriors. That's why it is so sad to watch the almost pathetic anticipation of those hoping Kieran Foran will be the silver bullet.

Foran has plenty of well-publicised problems of his own, needs time to get back to his former level and is in an unfair, if unintended, position as saviour. What he needs is a re-entry people barely notice, allowing him to build up rather than try and carry an underperforming team.

Things have got so bad New South Wales State of Origin coach Laurie Daley weighed in, suggesting star half Shaun Johnson be dropped. Thanks, Laurie. Drop our most talented player. Right. By the way, how'd last year's Origin go for you? 2-1 loss? Right. The win came when Queensland had already wrapped up the series 2-0? Right. Don't let the door hit you in the nose on the way out.

Johnson may be inconsistent and frustrating at times but remains one of the few players capable of really sparking something. That talent, inconsistency and the obvious impact of criticism (some fair, some not) on his mental game mean he is a microcosm of the Warriors' woes.

Saddest of all is Simon Mannering having his career sullied by all this. Watch him tackle and carry with consistent efficiency and heart and anyone who has played in an oval ball code knows this is a quality guy you'd follow through a steel door.

Yes, the salary cap might be a problem. Yes, the Warriors' struggles make it clear big names will hesitate to sign up, maybe afraid the talent-draining virus will hit them too.

But it has to be done - a clear-out, particularly in the forwards. Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Charlie Gubb, Ryan Hoffman, Bodene Thompson and Albert Vete are all off contract this year. Tohu Harris is arriving next year but we shouldn't cast him as the Messiah either.

Last year, Manly farewelled 17 players, 11 of them off contract (including three legends). The year before, they shifted 14.

They'd had two poor seasons.

After shipping out 31 players, transitional Manly were sixth on the table after last weekend - eight places ahead of the Warriors.

Manly may not win the premiership but at least they are not imprisoned in an endlessly sad timelock. To break the spell, owner Eric Watson must get the chequebook out and use it heavily.

Sadly, there seems no other way.