Warriors' military planning paying off

As a club, the Warriors have been traversing the Tasman now for 16 years. Every other week, players, coaches and support staff engage in a military-style exercise just so they can compete in the NRL premiership.

Few fans give the fortnightly operation a second thought. They see the Warriors leave the dressing room on their TV screens or from their seat in the grandstand and get stuck into a game of football but little do they realise what it takes to get them on the field.

If the Warriors are scheduled to play in Townsville or Canberra, for instance, there is a two-legged journey: An international flight to Australia, a transfer from the international terminal to domestic followed by more time in the air. If their game is in Newcastle, the travel time from home to hotel room can be as much as 10 hours.

Each trip requires its own strategy. The Warriors have been successful so far in 2011, winning four of their six games on the road, but they don’t seek any credit because they realise that a good record can just as quickly turn sour. Earlier this year the rescheduling of the Test match from Christchurch to the Gold Coast because of the February earthquake provided coach Ivan Cleary and his staff with a huge logistical headache.

For the past decade the club had a bye scheduled for the weekend of the Australia-New Zealand Test but they decided they would break with tradition and back up after the Test in 2011 because of the relatively “comfortable” distance between Christchurch and Mt Smart.

But the rescheduling of the Test to the Gold Coast meant a corresponding switch of home game against the Titans to Skilled Park. A week later, the Warriors were drawn to play in Newcastle so they chose to stay on in Australia for 10 days, a decision that was not made lightly and one which had been undertaken only twice before, with limited success, in the club’s history.

This time, the decision came up trumps; the Warriors scored back-to-back victories at Robina and Newcastle and the club also had the opportunity to undertake community work in flood ravaged areas of Ipswich.

It was a calculated gamble that paid off. The team had the chance to bond State-of-Origin-style as they convoyed down the Pacific Highway, stopping overnight at Port Macquarie (home town of Warrior Jeremy Latimore) before completing the trek to Newcastle the next day.

This week the Warriors left for Sydney on Thursday, coach Cleary giving his team more time to prepare for their clash with the Roosters than he has on recent visits after several travel delays – an inevitable part of their travel routine.

Few fans would comprehend the impact of the constant time zone changes that the team experiences. Their 7.30pm clash with the Roosters this Saturday night is actually 9.30 New Zealand time; so by fulltime the body clocks of the players are well past 11pm. And then there is the impact on families and young children with fathers often absent for three nights at a time.

The Toyota Cup has been a blessing for the Warriors in terms of travel. Young players with little flying experience are far worldlier by the time they make the step up to the NRL. They have learned to cope with customs agents, passport control, departure lounges and hours of waiting time, long before they have to contemplate a showdown with a 250-game veteran of the NRL.

As the competition nears the halfway mark only competition leaders St George Illawarra have won more games away from home than the Warriors.

But consider this: an away game for the Dragons includes a short car journey to Toyota Park and a bus trip across town to Parramatta or Penrith. For the Warriors, every away game is an exercise in planning. And so far they have the formula just about right.