Greg Prichard, NRL.com
The Warriors have played a great month of football in response to the hiding they got from Penrith, but coach Matthew Elliott has warned his players that if they want to go places in this competition that can only be the start.
“You don’t entrench any type of behaviour in a month,” Elliott told nrl.com. “We’ve done a lot of work, but we’ve still got a lot more work to do.”
When the Panthers smashed the Warriors 62-6 at Centrebet Stadium in Round 10, most people thought that spelt curtains for the Warriors’ season.
They had lost eight and won just two of their first 10 games, and the lack of effort and intensity against the Panthers was a terrible sign.
But at least there was still time to turn the season around if the Warriors wanted to do so badly enough, and that is what they have been in the process of doing ever since.
Four straight wins have followed that horror loss – 28-12 over Newcastle at home, 56-18 over Brisbane away, 18-16 over Manly at home and 23-12 over Sydney Roosters away.
Those last two wins came against teams that are well established in the top four this season, and were thoroughly deserved.
The Warriors have been slowly climbing the competition table in recent weeks, and began Round 16 in 12th place, on 14 points. They face the 11th-placed Broncos, who are also on 14 points, at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday.
Asked what transpired in the days after the game against the Panthers, Elliott replied: “There were no ‘crisis’ meetings, but we did have meetings and we talked about whether we wanted to settle for that type of performance or make a change.
“It’s the same in any workplace. If you have a bad month, it has to be discussed, and you have to do something about it. What happened against Penrith obviously grabbed everyone’s attention at the club.”
Elliott said he believed the extremely poor performance against the Panthers came largely as a result of the team becoming frustrated at having put themselves in a number of previous games with a chance of winning, only to come unstuck.
“When something like that happens, it’s never just one thing,” he said. “A few things contributed. We’d played really hard for the six weeks prior. Every game, we were in it at the 70th minute, but we won only two of the six.
“We put a lot of effort in over a six-week period for very little result, and it took a lot out of the players. In hindsight, I got our training week wrong before the Penrith game as well. We trained too hard and travelled too late.
“We took our foot off the pedal in the game, and unless you’re mindset is right you’ve got no hope of winning in the NRL. Penrith played great and we were awful, and the result was what you’re going to get in the NRL if you’re not ready.
“But our form since that game has been good, and our performances against Manly and the Roosters, in particular, were very good. Those are two very good teams, who are in the top four for a reason.
“The thing I’ve liked most about our recent form is the toughness and intensity we’ve shown. If the Warriors don’t play with toughness and intensity, people just shrug their shoulders, but if a team like Manly play without toughness and integrity, everyone is shocked.
“That’s what I mean about behaviour not becoming entrenched in a month. Manly have been playing that way for more than five years now, and they took a few years to build up to it before that. You’ve got to reach the stage where you make the decision to do that every time you play.”
The Broncos were without State of Origin players Justin Hodges, Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday and Matt Gillett, and injured prop Ben Hannant, when the Warriors put 50-plus points on them at Suncorp Stadium.
All five are in the team for Sunday’s game, and Elliott is naturally expecting the Broncos to be a vastly different rival this time around.
“They had five of their best players out last time. Take five of the best players out of any team and they’re going to struggle,” he said. “Add those guys coming back in to the guys who were there the first time and want to make up for the loss and you’ve got a very tough opponent.
“The result of the other game means nothing when it comes to Sunday’s game. Anthony (Griffin, the Broncos’ coach) would have targeted this game for sure. We’ve got a massive challenge on our hands.”