Packed Mt Smart awaits Storm

The Warriors are set to run out in front of their biggest home crowd of the year this Sunday against the Storm.

 

Pre-sale ticket numbers indicate that attendance for the Round 18 clash will easily surpass the previous highest of 2015, when 15,102 turned out to watch the Kiwi side play the Titans on Anzac Day.

It will be the latest example in a trend which suggests this fixture has become one of the most important on the calendar for Warriors fans.

Many now view the Storm as the closest thing the club has to a derby game, and in the last two occasions when the Warriors and Storm have met at Mt Smart Stadium it has been the largest attended match for the year at that venue.

In 2013 there were 20,126 on hand to witness the Warriors win 30-22, while in 2012 the attendance was 20,487. There was no Auckland match between the pair in 2014.

Warriors fan engagement manager Rodney Wallace declined to reveal exact pre-sale numbers, but confirmed they were well up on the usual for the club, who this year have averaged just over 14,000 at home matches.

"As is quite standard with the Melbourne game it is tracking to be our biggest game of the season," Wallace told NRL.com.

"We definitely look at the Melbourne game as one of our pinnacle games of the season.

"I think there is a lot of history between the two clubs, Kiwis also have quite a connection with Melbourne, there's a lot of Kiwis who live there and Kiwis who probably have the Storm as their second team after the Warriors.

"There's Kiwis in the [Storm] team and Origin stars in the team, so it brings people out."

Coach Andrew McFadden said a large home crowd would be a welcome addition for what shapes as one of his side's most important games of the year.

"That would be terrific because we have certainly been probably a little disappointing at home this year," McFadden said in reference to the club's four-and-three record at home this season.

"We certainly owe it to our fans to put on a good show, I thought we did that against Canberra last time, but we have got to back that up."

Interchange prop Charlie Gubb added a vocal home crowd could make the world of difference to the players.

"At Mt Smart they are so close to the field and they are different supporters to most," Gubb said.

"They are so loud and you can tell they are so passionate about us. With away crowds they are loud but it is lots of shouting at the ref and stuff, but here they know your name and support you; it's more intimate.

"I always like looking into the crowd because if you are nervous or tired it gives you a buzz to give that bit extra."

Sitting in seventh position heading into Round 18 the Warriors know the game against the fifth-placed Storm is likely to be among their toughest tests in the run towards the finals, and halfback Shaun Johnson said it comes at an ideal time.

"You want to play against the best sides, don't you? If you want to be the best you have to beat the best," the 2014 Golden Boot winner said.

"There is a bit of history there with us and the last time we had them over here we had an awesome crowd supporting us, and hopefully we can have that again Sunday.

"This is such a crucial time in the year when in the past we haven’t lived up to what we wanted to do, we are hoping this year we can go a lot better."