There’s no shortage of ways to view the Warriors’ ‘what might have been’ effort against the Raiders on Saturday night.
If you’ve given up long ago, it was just another blown chance by a club that has specialised in such failures in recent times. If you’re desperately searching for light at the end of the tunnel and believe there’s a good chance Stephen Kearney might be the man who can steer the club out of the darkness, then there were positive signs aplenty in the way his side bossed every facet of the game in a first half against an imposing opponent tipped to contend the grand final.
If you believe the Warriors get shafted by the referees at crucial moments, then there was plenty of grist for your particular mill, likewise, if you believe that it is their inability to overcome such setbacks that is holding the club back from being a genuine top four contender this season.
There is an element of truth in all of those scenarios. Which one you choose to apportion the greatest weighting to likely says as much about you as it does the Warriors.
Expressed via colourful social media posts, plenty went down the referee-shafting avenue –- and well they might have. The knock-on decision against Ken Maumalo when he was facing his own line cost the Warriors a try that would have changed the complexion of the contest, and Josh Hodgson’s blatant strip on David Fusitua killed off any hope of a late Warriors comeback. There were other less blatant officiating mistakes that made the Warriors’ task all the harder, but the bottom line is that the Warriors did not cope well enough with the adversity thrown at them by the errant officiating.
They were also architects of their own demise.
With the Warriors having set themselves up beautifully at half time to pull off a shock road win by pushing the Raiders’ monster pack to breaking point, Maumalo’s Easter-themed lolly spill shortly after the restart was a bubble-bursting error of dire consequence. And, if big games come down to big plays, then none was bigger than Jarrod Croker’s miraculous try-saving tackle on Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
The Warriors might not have deserved to lose, but it’s hard to argue the Raiders didn’t deserve their victory. Sport is odd like that.
The result provides plenty of ammunition for the ‘same-old, same-old’ brigade. At this stage last season, the Warriors boasted an identical 3-win 4-loss record.
They then traveled to Melbourne for an Anzac Day fixture that, over the years, has proved a wonderful exhibition of trans-Tasman rivalry, and produced one of the poorest displays in club history to lose 42-0. The performance was so bad it sparked an internal inquiry that discovered five players had prepared for the match by taking a concoction of prescription drugs and energy drinks.
The major casualty of that the cleansing process that ensued was veteran winger Manu Vatuvei, who admitted he had problems and sought help.
A year on, Vatuvei is hobbled by the knee issues that have plagued him throughout his career. The question of whether his club remains equally hobbled by its historic deficiencies will be answered on April 25. If the Warriors roll over in Melbourne again, it will have become all but impossible to argue that all that much has changed.