We didn't handle it: Warriors
A dejected Warriors captain and coach have admitted their squad did not handle the setbacks they were faced with in 2015 as they were left to rue a season that fell apart in dramatic fashion.
Those setbacks included the loss of halfback Shaun Johnson eight weeks before the start of the finals series. The side went on to lose eight straight, going from fourth place after 18 rounds to finish 13th, just a win ahead of last-placed Newcastle.
Despite the collapse, coach Andrew McFadden insisted it was also important not to forget about the positives; the emergence of some super young talent and the fact the side had been able to lift itself to fourth after 18 rounds gave cause for optimism next year with some serious star power also arriving in the form of Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
McFadden also praised the team for the spirit they showed in a second half to get back in from after having let a lead slip and going 20-10 behind, rather than conceding another cricket score as they had over the previous fortnight.
"I'm bitterly disappointed for the players. One of our themes around this week was to show some real team spirit. We didn't have a lot to play for but pride and that's what drove us this week," he said.
"We didn't get the points in the end and that is a reflection of our season, we're just not quite good enough at the moment but certainly I'm happy that we put up a fight."
Asked about the form of the young players – including rookie-of-the-year candidate Tuimoala Lolohea, whose two-try burst and conversions helped drag the side back in front – McFadden said that was one of several positives.
"We certainly can't ignore what's happened over the last couple of months and how we haven't handled the situation but when we look back, sit back and reflect on the season there's going to be some positives and those young kids and the experience that they've gained is going to be one of those.
"We've had some circumstances have been challenging and we haven't handled that and I've got to take responsibility for that. Clearly in the game, in moments when you really need to hang in there you need the players in a certain mindset and I've got to be responsible that they weren't [able to do] that."
The fact the younger players such as Lolohea – as well as young props Albert Vete and Sam Lisone, centre Solomone Kata, winger Ken Maumalo, and halfback Mason Lino – have got much-needed experience will stand the squad in good stead.
"We'll look back at our whole season, just as we would any year, and we'll find out what we need to improve on but part of that's going to be the experience of these young guys, they're going to be far more prepared for a new season and the quality we've got coming in but we'll deal with the last two months that's for sure."
Skipper Simon Mannering added that the loss of Johnson was no excuse given the calibre of players still available.
"We always had hope and belief in ourselves and as a team and it definitely got away from us there in the last eight weeks," he said.
"We got into a decent position there for a while and we had a few setbacks and that's no excuse, we probably didn't handle it as well as we should have as a group. To go lose eight in a row after that is very disappointing. Especially with the players we had out there we were more than capable of it. We didn't do a good enough job as a team.
"We had the players and the team to do it. We just didn't gel well enough as a team or work hard enough as a team. As players we've got to take responsibility for that. Obviously we've got some great players coming next year and that's going to boost our side for sure but it was never the case that we didn't have the team to do it."
He insisted the side should have been able to cover for the loss of Johnson.
"[Johnson] is a real key part of our team. He was a loss but we still had faith in the guys coming through and belief we could get a job done but as a group we didn't handle it well. I don't know if it was us senior players who didn't rally the younger guys good enough. We just didn't handle it as well as we should have."