COMMENT:

The Warriors are hopeless.

They flash occasionally, then crash and burn.

They've never been that good — and probably never will be, against ruthless Australian clubs, in probably the toughest competition in the world.

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When you ask a casual observer, or general sports fan, about the Auckland club, the answers run pretty much like that.

That is the common perception of the Warriors; A team that has always flattered to deceive, and never quite reached their potential.

It sounds convincing, but it's not quite right. In fact it's probably the greatest myth about the club.

For an 11 year period from the start of this decade, the Warriors were a model of consistency.

Between 2001 and 2011, they cracked the code.

During that period they reached the finals seven times, in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011.

As outlined in the book 'Celebrating 25 Years of the New Zealand Warriors', that was a better record than the Roosters, Sea Eagles, Bulldogs, Dragons and Eels, among many other storied clubs.

The Warriors were a model of consistency in the NRL between 2001-2011. Photo / Photosport
The Warriors were a model of consistency in the NRL between 2001-2011. Photo / Photosport

It was a mark that was only bettered by two clubs, the perennially consistent Storm and the powerhouse Broncos.

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In the same period the Warriors reached four preliminary finals, with famous wins over Cronulla (2002) and the Storm (2011) book ended by losses to the eventual premiers in 2003 (Penrith) and 2008 (Manly).

Again that figure was better than 13 other clubs, and only surpassed by two teams (Storm and Broncos).

In a similar vein, their two grand final appearances during that time were only bettered by three clubs (Storm, Roosters, Sea Eagles).

Sure, it was a different era, with opposition clubs and scouts not nearly as prevalent across New Zealand.

It meant that the Warriors generally had their pick of the best talent coming through, unlike today's situation, where they are competing fiercely with the other 15 franchises for young players from around the country.

And the sport itself was not as structured and scientific back then, which probably helped the Warriors during that era.

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But despite all that, it showed what was possible.

The first successful era was built around a brutal, uncompromising set of forwards, with Australian import Kevin Campion helping his teammates in the pack to unleash the right mix of aggression and flair.

The team had some tremendous athletes, and played some spellbinding football between 2001-2003.

The next era of prosperity was different, with coach Ivan Cleary pushing a slightly more structured approach, but even more effective.

Together with a strong football department, he achieved long term success, developing some wonderful local talent mixed with judicious recruitment.

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No coach before or since has had so much success, nor got the best out of the talent mix available.

As the club prepare to embark on another campaign, which begins next Saturday in Newcastle, it's worth reflecting on those times.

Warriors players in a huddle. Photo / Photosport
Warriors players in a huddle. Photo / Photosport

It showed that long term success at Mt Smart isn't the impossible mission that it has often been painted to be, but requires a carefully assembled mix of key ingredients, in the front office, the coaching group and the playing roster.

It also needs the right training environment, a unified team and a gameplan that both suits and excites the players.

The book, written by league writer Will Evans, is a fascinating read, offering a new take on the first quarter century of the club.

Aside from the story of every season, there's plenty of well-researched detail; who knew that 25 players had captained the Warriors, or that five sets of brothers had turned out for the team?

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There's a look back on the Warriors' one game wonders, their various rugby converts, best goal kickers (Michael Witt just shades Matthew Ridge) and worst injury setbacks (Shaun Johnson's broken ankle tops the list).

There's a section devoted to the winningest Warriors (wing twins Frances Meli and Manu Vatuvei), an amusing enigma XIII and the top 10 utility players.

And the tome doesn't duck the controversial moments; from Ridge's turbulent time at the club, to Ali Lauitiiti's exit, the various ownership dramas and missing out on a teenage Sonny Bill Williams.