Warriors still earning fans' respect
They own the second-best record over the past three months of the competition but Warriors back-rower Feleti Mateo believes the side still has a way to go convince NRL fans that they are the real deal.
Saturday night's loss to the Broncos was just their third since Round 7 and sets up a tantalasing match-up against the Sea Eagles at Mt Smart on Sunday, where they have won all four matches they have played there this season.
One of four teams locked together on 22 competition points, the seventh-placed Warriors will be in danger of dropping out of the eight should they not topple the Sea Eagles and give those who still question their consistency even further ammunition.
"I've been in New Zealand for four years and I think we go under the radar the whole time," Mateo told NRL.com.
"The teams and the players don't underestimate us but I think we've probably been known as whatever team rocks up on the day is what you get but I think we've changed that.
"We're a team that turns up every week and the NRL fans probably don't give us the respect that we deserve but we know we've still got a long way to go to get that. If we can keep going the way we're going hopefully we can do that."
The turnaround in the Warriors' fortunes have coincided with the appointment as Andrew McFadden as head coach, the seventh mentor he has played under in nine years in the NRL.
Having only recently re-signed for a further three years in New Zealand, the sacking of head coach Matthew Elliott in Round 5 could have unsettled Mateo but he is excited at what McFadden has brought to the team and what the team can achieve in coming years.
"Personally, I've been through a few coaches in my time at Parramatta and then having Ivan [Cleary], 'Bluey' (Brian McLennan) and Matt leave, I've been through a fair bit of it," Mateo explained.
"I think as long as the player focuses on their job and let's everyone else do their job... I think 'Cappy' (McFadden) has done a wonderful job reinforcing that and I think everyone's responded well.
"I signed another three years, this is the first of three, and we've made a good life over there. Since I've been there I've been married and had a kid now so I've got so many memories in New Zealand and the people there are so good.
"I just love the way the club's going and the direction the club is moving in. I think there are going to be some big things in the next few years and I want to be a part of it."
Once renowned as one of the most prolific offloaders of the footy in the competition, Mateo is averaging less than one per game in his 14 games to date in 2014, three of which came against the Broncos last weekend but were accompanied by two errors.
"No not at all, he leaves it in my hands," Mateo said of any restrictions on the offload imposed by McFadden. "[Against the Broncos] I probably threw one or two that I probably shouldn't have and it's a balance that I think I've got right for a while now and tonight probably just lost my way a bit.
"It's just working within your game plan and working within yourself. Knowing when you should throw it and when you shouldn't. We've got more than enough boys who are capable of throwing offloads and I guess when you're playing well and with confidence those sorts of things come off.
"The last 10 or 12 weeks it's been happening well for everyone so tonight was a bit of a hiccup so hopefully we can get back on the horse."
The challenge facing the Warriors on Sunday, however, could hardly be any greater facing a Manly team now enjoying sole competition following their win over the Dragons on Monday night and with 10 wins from their past 12 meetings with the men from New Zealand.
Although they are widely respected for the toughness of the football that they play, Mateo is equally wary of the skill last year's grand finalists possess.
"They're going really well and us playing at home, we've got a pretty good record there lately so it's going to be a tough one and we're going to have to train hard during the week to get ourselves right," said the 30-year-old.
"Each team is different in their own way and Manly, they are tough and I think teams underestimate that. They love to play footy with their halves and Brett Stewart at the back so you can mistake them playing footy for grinding footy.
"I think they're a good team that play within themselves as well. They like taking chances but they're usually calculated so we know what's coming up and we just have to try to stop it."