Watch out if we make it, say Warriors
They need to win both remaining games and even then they’re not guaranteed of a top eight spot but Warriors five-eighth Thomas Leuluai believes the Kiwi outfit can not only make the finals but cause plenty of damage once they get there.
Despite sitting 11th on the NRL ladder as one of five sides locked on 24 competition points and boasting a terrible for-and-against record the Warriors have the softest draw of all those sides fighting for a finals berth with a home game against troubled Canberra this weekend and a trip to see the Dragons to come.
Provided Newcastle and North Queensland don’t both win their remaining games, the Warriors are highly likely to sneak into the top eight should they score consecutive victories and Leuluai is adamant they can replicate their stunning run through the 2011 finals series.
“You just have to look at our results this year – we’ve beaten most of the top four teams and if we get in there we have the ability to do that again,” Leuluai said, pointing to impressive home wins over the Roosters, Storm and Sea Eagles as evidence of what they are capable of.
“Obviously we have a lot of improvement to go to get back to that level and we have to get in there first but I think we are a very good chance.
“We need to win two games. We’ve shown that when we play for each other we can beat the top teams so we are confident but we know we need to improve in a lot of areas as well. We’ve gone backwards again the past few weeks but when we get it right we’ve always been confident in what we can do.”
The Warriors have endured a season of peaks and troughs that saw them crash to an embarrassing 40-10 opening round loss to Parramatta and record just two wins from their opening 10 matches before embarking on a run of seven wins from eight.
They then crashed to three consecutive losses before bouncing back with a narrow win over the Gold Coast last week. Leuluai said it was time the Warriors took ownership of their season.
“We’ve known for a while where we sit and we knew last week that we had to win all of our games,” he said. “We were really disappointed a couple of weeks ago when we played Penrith, we felt that we should have won that game but we didn’t really show up. Last week was pretty good but I think we need to still be a lot better.
“We’ve been struggling a bit, lacking some energy and enthusiasm but it was good to get back in the winners’ circle.”
Leuluai was also quick to reject suggestions that inconsistency is endemic of the Warriors, putting their slow start to the season down to the huge changes at the club which includes his return to the NRL for the first time since originally leaving the club for England way back in 2004.
“At the start it was all very new for a lot of people with Matty (Elliott) coming in so late,” he said. “We had new systems and a whole new way of playing.
“It was all new for me too, new everything really – a new club, new competition, new coach – all those things coming together made it a bit tough for me at the start and it took me a while to get into it.
“I knew I was a bit slow to start but I felt that after about a month and a bit I worked out my role in the team and things started to work for me which is probably a lot like the team really.
“Our performances at the start of the year weren’t great but as we got a bit of cohesion we started to play some good football.”
The Warriors will start firm favourites to beat a Raiders side that has gone through incredible turmoil over the past fortnight with coach David Furner sacked, start centre Blake Ferguson going AWOL and winger Sandor Earl being exposed for drug use and trafficking.
But Leuluai said he expected them to be fired up for a big performance this week.
“We expect them to be fired up – that’s the only way we can approach it,” he said. “A bit of adversity brings teams together and they’ve had plenty of that so I think they will come to play. They’re in the same situation as us too. They need to win to keep their season alive so it will be a testing game. I think what has happened will bring them all together and really make them play for each other.
“All we can do though is focus on what we need to do. One thing we talked about this week is that it’s the Old Boys game for us at the club so all the Old Boys will be there and we don’t want to disappoint in front of them. It’s a really big game for us.”