Weekend Herald

‘It’s not going to destroy us’

Warriors fight back from latest string of setbacks

- Michael Burgess

Selling out Mt Smart is good for us, [so] it’s another financial kicking.

Warriors chairman Rob Croot

Warriors chairman Rob Croot admits it has been a horror week — but he is backing the club to rebound on and off the field.

Last Sunday’s disappoint­ing 20-12 defeat to the Sharks, which all but ended their slim NRL playoff hopes, was followed by the cancellati­on of their highly anticipate­d homecoming game next month.

Then came the forced relocation to Queensland, which has created massive upheaval for the players, staff and families.

In a year where little has gone right, it seems like the final straw.

“It’s just gutting, for everything they have given up, to have this,” Croot told the Weekend Herald.

“We’ve got families that have relocated from New Zealand, putting kids in school on the Central Coast. And now the club’s moving to the Gold Coast.

“And now to be outside the top eight, with all the hard work that has gone on and what we were wanting this season — it’s gutting for everyone, what we were working to, what we were hoping.”

The inability to stage the Bulldogs game is particular­ly costly, for the balance sheet and other intangible factors.

“We’re a little bit more in the hole,” said Croot. “Selling out Mt Smart is good for us, [so] it’s another financial kicking. It’s not going to destroy us but would have rather had it in the bank.

“And our key sponsors were highly engaged on making it a really special event. There was also the emotional thing of welcoming the extended Warriors’ family back to New Zealand and Roger’s last [home] game. It was going to be massive.”

It’s yet another blow. Since the Autex group took sole ownership of the

Warriors in late 2019, the team has not been seen at Mt Smart, while the club has essentiall­y become an offshore entity. That has equated to millions in lost revenue and increased costs, and hasn’t been an easy road.

“It’s certainly not what we dreamed of,” said Croot, who has been part of some tough boardroom discussion­s.

“There’s been a number of conversati­ons and the organisati­on unfortunat­ely is skinny,” said Croot.

“It has to be prudent; balancing the financial responsibi­lity but being able to operate effectivel­y. It’s as skinny as it can possibly get and Autex is in a position where we can commit to whatever it needs.”

But there has been no thought of walking away.

“It’s certainly not comfortabl­e for us,” said Croot. “And it’s not where we want to be. But we know what we’re dealing with. From an Autex position, we’re comfortabl­e that we can commit to that.

“It’s bloody hard on everyone, but at some point, it’s going to come right. We believe in the future, we bought into it to be great caretakers for the club. To set it up right and that vision, and our commitment, has not changed.”

According the Croot, the owners are still ready to invest, when they get the chance, to build the developmen­t base and pathways necessary in this country, as well as creating “a more engaged New Zealand in our club”.

Aside from the off-field challenges, the Warriors have also struggled on the park. After a promising start — with a 4-4 record after a third of the season — they have nosedived dramatical­ly, winning just one of their last eight games.

Injuries have been a factor, but aren’t enough to justify five wins at this stage of the campaign (the worst record since 2004), given the strength of the roster.

It’s a considerab­ly superior squad than Todd Payten had last year — with loan players and all kinds of dramas in 2020 — but the results are worse.

However, Croot believes the team are on the right track.

“We’re not too far away and that’s the wonderful challenge with the game,” said Croot.

“As much as we improve, every other club improves as well. So it’s not just a matter of what you do. Everybody gets better and that’s the brilliance of the competitio­n.

“So we know what we want and we are working hard to get there, some of it is timing, some of it is the rugby league gods. We have just got to continue on the path we’ve chosen.”

There’s also confidence in coach Nathan Brown as the right man at the helm.

“Absolutely — he’s terrific,” said Croot.

The Warriors face the Panthers tomorrow as the club continue to assess the ramificati­ons of the move north.

“It could be worse — at least the competitio­n is continuing,” said Croot. “If we were faced with a halt to the competitio­n, the effect on all the clubs and players is far more significan­t.”

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 ?? Photo / Getty Images ?? After a strong start, the Warriors have won just one of their past eight games.
Photo / Getty Images After a strong start, the Warriors have won just one of their past eight games.
 ?? Photo / Photosport ?? Relocation is “gutting”, says Rob Croot.
Photo / Photosport Relocation is “gutting”, says Rob Croot.

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