Warriors keeping it simple for finals bid
Ahead of their biggest game of the season the Warriors admit they are feeling the pressure, but the message from the playing group is clear: stick together and we will be OK.
The New Zealanders take the field at Sportingbet Stadium on Sunday in the very last game of round 26, meaning they will know exactly where they stand before kick-off.
A win will get them through regardless – as they'll jump either the sixth-placed Storm or the eight-placed Broncos, who play each other on Friday night – while if the Eels lose and the Broncos go down by eight points or more against the Storm, even a loss will see the Kiwi side advance to the finals provided they can better Brisbane's points differential which is currently seven higher than their own.
But prop Sam Rapira said they would leave the mathematics up to others and simply worry about ensuring they put their best foot forward against the fourth-placed Panthers.
"I think it's just a matter of sticking together, staying tight and enjoying each other's company, because once we go over there we are on our own," Rapira said.
"If we perform well and lose you can't really ask for any more.
"It is probably not the ideal sort of situation but it is what we play football for.
"Break it down and it's pretty simple; do our thing and we win."
The Warriors have a couple of factors going against them before a ball is even kicked, with a history of poor performances in do-or-die Round 26 matches dating back as recently as last season.
There is also the memory of the last time they visited Sportingbet Stadium in May 2013, when the Panthers inflicted a club-record 62-6 loss on the New Zealanders.
"We are going over to their home and they are not easy over there," Rapira said.
"We got them back one [a 30-20 win in Round 16] but they put us to shame a bit there with a massive score, we definitely don't want to go out like that.
"I think last year we were in the same situation come Round 26 and we failed miserably at it.
"Obviously this year we don't want to go back into the same situation, the boys have been working hard this week and also just enjoying each other's company, so hopefully we get the job done.
"This year we have new players and a different feel with the boys."
Now in his 10th season as an NRL player, winger Manu Vatuvei said the Warriors' senior heads had sounded out younger members this week to offer help in dealing with the expectations and pressure associated with such a big game.
In previous years Vatuvei said the club had allowed distractions to creep in at this time of year, and suggested the team would go into a virtual lockdown once they arrived at the foot of the Blue Mountains.
"[Avoiding watching the other games this weekend] is part of it, we just know what we have to do… those are the distractions we don't want to the boys to focus on," the 28-year-old said.
"We just want to make sure they are focussing on their job and understanding what we need to do and not other stuff like that we have to win.
"I think [in the past] the boys have already been focussing on after the game, a big holiday or something.
"I think there are distractions there but the team this year is a bit different.
"It doesn't [come much bigger than this] but everyone knows what we have to do."