The Dominion Post
Home is where the heartache is for Warriors
Of all the reasons why 2019 has not gone to plan for the Warriors, perhaps the most puzzling is their inability to get the job done at home.
Historically known as a fortress, Mt Smart Stadium has been anything but this season.
Friday night’s 46-12 capitulation against Canberra was the Warriors’ sixth-straight NRL defeat at their Auckland base, equalling the club record.
Unless they quickly find some answers, there’s a decent chance a new mark will be set when the fifth-placed Sea Eagles come to town this Friday. It doesn’t get any easier in their final home game of the year when they host the third-placed Rabbitohs on August 30.
Ironically, it is their form on the road, traditionally the club’s Achilles heel, that has kept them in the finals race.
The Warriors’ home record this year stands at 4-6 yet two of those were away from Mt Smart; one in Brisbane against the Dragons as part of Magic Round and the other two weeks ago in Wellington against the Sharks.
After winning their first two games of the season in Auckland against the lowly Bulldogs and Titans, the Warriors have lost to the Cowboys, Knights, Broncos, Storm, Panthers and Raiders.
Melbourne and Canberra are top four teams, while Newcastle at the time were in red-hot form. If the Warriors had won just two of those six matches, they would be sitting inside the top eight.
Having watched his side compete so hard on the road for the last month made Friday’s performance even more frustrating for coach Stephen Kearney. ‘‘If you see the performances that we’ve put together in Brisbane, Newcastle, even Parramatta, we’ve had a real focus on making sure . . . we were getting to the end of our sets with a good kick-chase,’’ the Warriors coach said.
‘‘I can’t see why we can’t replicate that on our home turf because I’ve been around the game of footy a fair while and that’s what works for you, but we just can’t seem to get it right at home.’’
Senior forward Adam Blair said the struggles at Mt Smart had not been playing on their minds heading into the Raiders clash. Like last week’s refereeing drama against Parramatta, they had moved on but what let them down was a lack of intent.
‘‘For us it was about our performance, to go out there and put in all the hard work that we have done over the last six weeks and try to come away with the win. But our intent from the getgo wasn’t there defensively and it was a bit of a snowball effect in the end,’’ Blair said.
‘‘The only ones that can change that is ourselves. Everyone’s got to go away and look at themselves, just cop it on the shoulder and work hard.’’
Coming off such a heavy defeat and with a brutal draw in the final five games, it seems pointless talking about the playoffs. Yet, sitting three points outside the top eight, the Warriors are not completely out of the running.
Blair said that hadn’t been a topic of conversation for some time. Their focus has always been week-to-week and that won’t change for the Sea Eagles.
‘‘This has taken a massive dent in our way to the top but the lucky thing with rugby league is you get another week,’’ he said. ‘‘It doesn’t get any easier for us – Manly are a quality side – so we can’t turn up with the wrong attitude and intent because they’ll put another scoreline on us and that will be it.’’