With just two games remaining in the regular season, the New Zealand Warriors sit 10th on the NRL ladder having taken 22 points from 22 games. This doesn’t sound too bad on paper, but the nature of what was their sixth successive defeat has really compounded their late season misery — the Warriors gave up an early 16-point lead by conceding 50 unanswered points to the high-flying Cowboys in the Warriors’ last home game of the season.
The result leaves the Warriors without a win since beating the Storm at Mt. Smart Stadium on 12 July and they have since conceded 184 points, scoring just 52, and have been held scoreless twice. Their longest ever losing streak reached 11 matches over the 2012/13 seasons, and in 2000 their worst ever single-season losing streak ran to seven matches.
In stark contrast, the result put the Cowboys third on the ladder, level on points with the second- and first-placed Broncos and Roosters in what will be a three-way shoot-out for the minor premiership. None of these top three teams play each other again, which leaves the Roosters in pole position for the playoffs with their superior points differential.
The Warriors had looked certain to play their way into the finals, but when their key player, Shaun Johnson, was taken out for the rest of the season with a broken leg against Manly in Round 20, their season took a dramatic turn for the worse. The Warriors went on to lose that game 32–12 and haven’t won since.
Even the coaches have been at a loss to explain why they have struggled so much since losing Johnson — showing just how important he is to this side. You couldn’t blame head coach Andrew McFadden for just wanting to get on with next season with the exciting prospects of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke signed for the club earlier this year. McFadden is the club’s 10th coach in just 20 years, so will be feeling the pressure to perform, and knows that a few new signings will not turn things around instantly.
As for the remaining games, McFadden is realistic, saying that all they can do is show up and “have a good crack at it” — that’s the spirit, mate!