No August nightmares for Warriors: Vatuvei
The signs look ominous, but the Warriors have denied any suggestion that they are set for yet another late-season collapse.
Across their 19-year history the New Zealanders have rarely put their best foot forward at the business end of the season, and over the past five years have won more games than they have lost in the last month of the competition only twice.
Since season 2009 they have managed to win only 45 per cent of their four games heading into the finals, and as a result have made the top eight on only two occasions during that period.
This year they again find themselves in an uphill battle to play post-season footy, and head into Sunday’s clash against the Roosters off the back of two dour performances against the cellar-dwelling Sharks and 14th-placed Knights.
Now in his tenth season with the club, winger Manu Vatuvei has experienced plenty of August nightmares but said it wouldn’t be happening this time around.
“I think we are confident with where we are at the moment,” Vatuvei told NRL.com. “If we were sitting in 12th spot or something and had to win a few games then I think I would be worried, but we are sitting comfortable at the moment.
“There have been a few little hiccups, with the Sharks we didn’t play a great game but still got the points, and last week we needed it and lost it.
“We just have to make sure we get back to how we were three weeks ago.
“I see a bit of a change in the boys’ attitude and how they react to pressure [compared to this time in previous years].
“It is just little manipulations in our game and once we fix it we will be sweet.”
After recovering from a torrid start to the year on and off the field, the Warriors lost only two games between Round 8 and 18, but have gone down in three of their past five.
In his first year as an NRL coach Andrew McFadden could be forgiven for feeling the pressure right now, but he wasn’t showing any signs of it midweek.
“We are disappointed with performances but we still know we have enough strike and talent in this team to do something, we just have to go back to what works for us,” he said.
“There is no mystery here… there are some little attitude adjustments and mind-set things we need to work on, but I know that we can turn it around very fast.
“We have worked really hard on a lot of the technical aspects of the game and maybe we have dropped off on the areas we are good at, which is that effort and intent.
“It only takes just to acknowledge it to turn it around and the boys are going to be really determined this week.
“The mental side of the game is something you have got to train, it is in our development stage but I feel like we have made some real ground there.”
Front-rower Ben Matulino, who this weekend will become the first NYC graduate to play 150 NRL games, saw Sunday’s meeting with the fourth-placed Roosters at Mount Smart Stadium as make or break for his team’s season.
“It is pretty much semi-final football for us, if we lose we find ourselves down and out of the eight; we have to win,” he said.
“We want to win every game so that coming into the last game we are not relying on other teams to win to keep us in the eight, for us it is just about winning to keep control of that.”