The New Zealand Warriors' near-perfect return to the NRL season on Saturday deserved respect - yet it received the ultimate ignominy.
After all, the displaced Kiwi side had one of the most impressive performances in NRL history in their 18-0 win over the St George Illawarra Dragons on Australia's Central Coast.
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In their first match back from the competition's coronavirus-enforced hiatus, it was the first time the Warriors had kept an opponent scoreless on Australian soil since 2006, and they posted one of the most incredible completion rates the game has seen, getting through 44 complete sets before finishing the match completing 46 of their 48.
This was done without several key players, with the seven in the casualty ward in the week leading into the match later joined by prop Lachlan Burr, who suffered a head knock in training, and centre Peta Hiku, who succumbed to a rib injury just 25 minutes into the contest.
But instead of singing the praises of a team that have sacrificed so much just to remain in the competition, the Fox Sports broadcast panel focused their post-mortem almost exclusively on the hapless Dragons outfit.
"Well, if you believe in rugby league karma, this is a tremendous result for the Warriors. Their first win of the season and done in a competitive and committed 80-minute effort. Statistically, near perfect, but the numbers do not matter because this victory means so much more for the New Zealand Warriors. 18-0 the final score; a diabolical result for the Dragons," Fox League host Yvonne Sampson said on the broadcast before turning to analysts Ben Ikin, Michael Ennis and Cooper Cronk and posing the question: "What does this say about poor old St George Illawarra?"
Any other team and the broadcasters would be lauding their efforts. After the Newcastle Knights' draw with the Penrith Panthers a little over 24 hours later, the experts were gushing about the Knights' performance given their significant injury woes and the performance from their young guns.
Yes, Fox Sports is an Australian broadcaster and the team act with their audience in mind, but surely they know they are being beamed to other parts of the world? And wouldn't even the Australian audience be happy to dive deeper into a performance like that from the Warriors?
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There's also the point that the Warriors game was the first in a Saturday triple-header. Admittedly, on paper at least, it looked like one of the most unappetising matches of the round, with both teams winless in the opening two rounds.
I understand the home town focus, but THE story of the game was the all time record completion rate. St George weren’t horrible, the Waz just didn’t give them anything. After the praise directed at the Waz by Aussie media re sacrifice for the comp, I expected more. More fool me.— D’Arcy (@DArcyWaldegrave) May 30, 2020
Plenty of league fans would have opted to forgo the early match before settling in for the night - all the more reason for a more detailed (and balanced) post-match analysis.
The Warriors were mentioned just twice between Sampson's immediate post-game monologue and the broadcast's shift to the build-up of the night's second game.
"The headline we should be talking about is the Warriors," former NRL hooker Ennis said before tearing into the Dragons.
"But what about the Warriors? They were outstanding," former halfback Cronk later quipped amidst a critique of the Dragons halves.
In the past few seasons the Warriors have had few performances to warrant being the focus of attention and yes, the Dragons were awful, but it was a performance that demanded respect and wasn't shown any.
In drawing out criticisms of the Dragons, it wouldn't have been hard to pull aspects of the Warriors' game that worked well – especially for former stars of the game.
Young forwards Eliesa Katoa and Jamayne Taunoa-Brown both had terrific performances, attacking the line with intent and muscling up defensively, while Kodi Nikorima held his own as a makeshift centre when Hiku was forced from the field.
Instead of the praise they were due, their performance garnered just two token comments as if to fill a quota of Warriors mentions in an otherwise one-eyed analysis.