Warriors charging towards top four finish
They have won five of their last six games to charge towards a top four finish, but it is the Warriors' loss to the Broncos that ultimately has them primed to make an impact in this year’s competition.
The Warriors proved against Brisbane in round 22 they have what it takes to go deep in the competition, with only a last gasp field-goal from Peter Wallace proving the difference.
The one-point loss is the Warriors' only blemish in six weeks.
Tireless lock Micheal Luck believes the lessons learnt that night playing at a packed Suncorp Stadium will be invaluable to his side heading into the finals.
“The game up in Brisbane, we came out on the wrong end of the scoreline but we took some valuable lessons from that,” Luck told NRL.com.
“The game against Newcastle was the same - it came down to the last 10 minutes. They are all games that in the future you can draw back on and use the experience to get the results when you need them.
“It showed us how we have to keep playing to get good results moving forward.”
While the Warriors have some notable scalps in big games, including their famous victory over the Melbourne Storm in 2008 - where they became the first ever eighth-placed side to beat the Minor Premiers in the first week of the finals - there has always remained a question mark when it comes to playing football in September.
But according to Luck, the team from across the Tasman has been playing ‘finals football’ for the last two months and have had the mentality of big games drilled into them.
There is more purpose to this side and they are learning from their mistakes. It's why this time around, Luck believes the Warriors are a team to be feared.
“We have had to get back to playing finals-style footy that gets results,” Luck said.
“On the weekend against Newcastle we played two different halves of football - one put us behind, the other put us in front. It is a good lesson to show us what type of football gets results in 2011.
“We’ve been playing finals-type football for a couple of months, it gets you in good habits when you play in the close games. We can only worry about the games in front of us, I think as a group we have tended to look to far ahead in the past and have stumbled.
“We won’t be making the same mistakes again, we have learned that we have to win every battle in front of us and it starts this weekend against Penrith on Saturday night.”
The Warriors travel to Penrith, knowing a victory could move them into the coveted top four, but they are wary of a Panthers outfit inspired by captain Petero Civoniceva’s last ever home game at Centrebet Stadium.
The game also sees the return of the livewire Michael Jennings and the Warriors will be on high alert whenever he is near the ball.
“It will be a tough game, it is their last home game of the year and Petero’s last there as captain, so they’ll be keen to send him out on a high,” Luck said.
“They have a big pack of forwards who always put up a battle and out wide they have some of the most dangerous broken-field runners in the game.
“Michael Jennings at fullback will add a lot to them, on his day he is as good as anyone in the game. We have to be smart with how and when we give him the ball. He is a great player and I love watching him. We need to limit his opportunities and our kick-chase is vital.”
The last three matches are crucial for the Warriors, with a home-city finals berth tantalizingly within their grasp. They take on St George Illawarra next Sunday, before playing at home against the Cowboys in the last week of the regular season.