Do Warriors fans still care? Or have they lost the faith?
An impassioned article entitled 'From Obsession to Apathy', written by co-ordinator of the biggest Warriors fan website suggests that a lot of supporters are on the verge of giving up on their team and simply don't care anymore...
Something is happening. Change is happening. As a Warriors supporter, there is a mood in the air that I have never experienced in 20 years. Or should I say, lack of mood - apathy is the only word I can find to describe it. The lack of enthusiasm, emotion, and even general interest in some cases, is a stark contrast to years gone by.
There was a time when the Warriors meant everything to me. Over the past 2 decades, my weeks and weekends have been dominated by everything rugby league and Warriors. My general mood over the week soured after a loss, then brightened again as game-day approached. My circle of friends similarly dove head first into the sport and the Auckland-based side with obsessive eagerness that was essentially unmatched by anything for years.
However during the last few seasons, I have noticed a gradual shift in mindset. It started out as simply less anger, less frustration after a loss. Then some started to avoid watching the games once it was clear the Warriors weren't going to make the eight. This progressed to snorts of derision during the propaganda-filled pre-seasons, and collective eye-rolling when we were fed articles declaring a 'fitter, stronger, more focused squad than ever before'. The club slowly descended from an entity that once filled us with pride, enjoyment, passion to something that we oddly found ourselves resenting. We were putting everything we had into it, and getting nothing in return.
From my perspective, this season has seen the biggest change of all. The fiery passion amongst many supporters is not only gone, it has been replaced with almost nothing at all. People simply no longer care about the outcome. I feel I can speak about this with a degree of confidence, having helped run the largest online supporters forum for the past decade. There will always be a sub-set of supporter that lives and dies by the results on the field, but this breed is dwindling.
From a competition standpoint, I would suggest the Knights are in a deeper hole than the Warriors, but they at least have some past success to fall back on. I don't see the Warriors winning a premiership for a long time, if ever. If I have to star gaze, they are probably on the verge of a Newcastle style 'rebuild' with very little light at the end of the tunnel.
I don't say this lightly, or as a knee-jerk reaction to what has unfolded so far this year. The Warriors simply do not produce footballers good enough to compete for sustained periods of time.
What we see are many players who are good at one or two things only. Some are great on attack, but can't defend, or lack basic ball handling skills. Some are great defenders, but can't break a tackle to save themselves. It is quite apparent that the players with all-round abilities tend to end up in rugby union, and why wouldn't they? Spending your days in the pulsating industrial hub of Penrose must surely pale in comparison to an All Black jersey and all the comes with it.
The attribute which is most consistently lacking however is mental fortitude. Most players this club produces lack it in spades. It can be hidden to a degree in a side filled with players who have it, but is sorely exposed here. The so-called nursery of junior league players in Auckland is nothing but a giant youtube highlight reel with zero substance. There is nothing about the junior players in our current squad that suggests they are anything but fringe first graders, let alone the type of players you can build a club around. The future looks incredibly dim.
If I am being brutally honest the Warriors are a club where careers come to die. Where basic skills, fitness and attitudes nose dive, never to recover to pre-Warriors levels - a few notable exceptions aside. No prior or current strategies on or off the field have worked, save for perhaps a couple of brief periods.
Jim Doyle's current strategy of recruiting Kiwis looks grand on paper but is arguably producing some of our worst ever performances. I expect to see him fall on his sword at the end of this season, as he probably should, though he has at least tried something different. In short, there is almost nothing to be positive about regarding this club and the direction it is headed.
I will probably watch again this weekend, as old habits certainly seem to die hard. Though none of what unfolds will mean very much, neither to myself nor many of my fellow supporters-turned-observers. Apathy has taken over, and it's here to stay.
By Kris Phare