It's time the Warriors came home. Yes, that's right, quit the travesty being called a "season" before New Zealand's rugby league reputation is flushed completely down the toilet.
Last weekend's abject failure against the Cronulla Sharks was the last straw; the slow and painful dismemberment of a club that has done everything the NRL has asked of it – and is suffering more than it should as a result.
The NRL has now thrown them a bone – a report from across the Tasman suggests the Warriors might get 24 home games next year as a thank you for what they are enduring this year. But is it worth it and will the NRL be able to keep this promise when the virus has neutered their previous undertakings to the Warriors?
The under-talented roster, the sacking of the coach, some injudicious decisions and comments from the new owners and the long-term effects of being away from home have compounded to produce a litany of losses and losers.
That chomping sound when watching the latest woes of the Warriors is the noise the NRL makes when it chews them up and spits them out.
The Warriors were badly needed to ensure eight games in every round to honour the broadcasting contract which supplies the NRL with truckloads of dollars. "Survival" was the word heavily used at the time. Asked to base and quarantine themselves across the Tasman, with the promise families could join them later (unable to be kept as Australia endures its second surge of the virus), the club could hardly refuse.
Maybe they should have. It has left the Auckland-based club with the equivalent of a bright yellow Post-it note stuck to their foreheads reading "sacrificial lambs" – and the Covid-19 season seems set to damage the Warriors far more than any other club, well past the 2020 season. Even if they try to improve their roster, who would shift to them now?
At first, the team and management were feted by the NRL and hangers-on as great blokes, dedicated leaguies. Then an ordinary playing roster started returning predictably ordinary results. Stephen Kearney was sacked amidst some dubious comments from the new owner that he wanted a coach with personality.
Blake Green was told he wasn't wanted any more – and turned in a blinder, reminding everyone of the strange law of nature that players ignored by, or shunted out of, the Warriors morph into much better players for their new club. Green's demise was all down to a desire to rid the club of players managed by unpopular agent Isaac Moses – but it looked as though that was more important than the wellbeing of the team and the player.
Meanwhile the latest raw deal from the refs in the disallowed try and loss to the Titans revived complaints of an unconscious bias against the Warriors. It's a beef that sometimes slips over the border of wounded pride and creeps into the region of Aussie nationalism; some fans feel Australian refs have a bias that is all too conscious.
It's all a bit sad, a bit tawdry and/or incompetent, and isn't a spectacle many people – not even the most dedicated Warriors fans – look forward to. There is an underlying sense of second-class citizenship.
We can't even rely on the Warriors' usual escape clause – "There's always next year". The way things are going, next year could be miserably like this year if the Aussies don't sort out their virus issues. In 25 years of highs and lows – but mostly, nearly always, lows – the Warriors have probably never faced a low like this. Their immediate future without Ken Maumalo, David Fusitu'a, Agnatius Paasi and King Vuniyayawa is bleak. There's only one way team morale can go after this – and it isn't up.
We shouldn't pass too much judgement on the want-to-go-home players. Some have said they should never play for the Warriors again – but clearly more than one has a personal situation that needs tending. While some diehards say hardening up is all that's required, I've yet to discover a sport or a team that has benefited from ignoring the personal circumstances of players.
What's more, few in Australia care if the dislocated, demoralised and debilitated Warriors get their asses handed to them every week. It's a fair bet the TV ratings – the reason they are there – mostly drop when the Warriors are the opposition.
There are 10 more weeks of this nightmare to go before the Warriors season ends on Sunday, September 27, with a match against Manly. We can only guess at that final score.
I know it's impractical and the Warriors are more or less cemented into this horror season. But let's bring them home – let the NRL have a bye week instead of the slaughter-the-Warriors fixtures that few in Australia are watching anyway. Sort out the mess with the NRL later – or this will be a case of the Warriors propping up NRL revenue but no one propping up the Warriors.
The NRL owes them – and who wants to watch a limp set of players produce the surrender defence the Sharks strode happily through last weekend?
The club and New Zealand league can't even do what their Super Rugby cousins have done – go it alone. The domestic game is in no shape to host a credible New Zealand contest.
So the Warriors will remain in their usual position – the runt of the litter, shoved aside in the battle for the teat, having to live with consistent refereeing and video ref errors, and being held hostage by a competition and a governing body where the 15 other teams all seem more important.