Lillyman admits Warriors were 'mentally soft'
They are making a customary charge through the Origin period but Warriors prop Jacob Lillyman insists the team this year has the mental strength to do something special in the 2016 Telstra Premiership.
When they suffered consecutive losses to the Panthers and Raiders the Warriors were sitting in 14th position through 11 rounds but have since won four of their past five games, their only loss a gritty golden point defeat at the hands of the Sharks in Round 16.
Ahead of their Round 19 clash with the Sea Eagles this weekend the Aucklanders sit in eighth position on the ladder and with a growing sense of belief that not only can they score points, but that they can defend them too.
Warriors teams of recent seasons would not have displayed the inner fortitude to fight back from an 18-10 deficit away against the competition front-runners but Lillyman is confident there is a much greater resolve in the 2016 version.
"We've come a long way in the space of six weeks so it's a lot happier place to be," Lillyman told NRL.com.
"We went to the Sharkies, one of the form teams of the comp, and went to golden point, that was a game that we could have won.
"That Sharkies game we played tough. We defended our line a lot and we did make a couple of errors but we defended really well.
"We played tough and we can be guilty of not doing that, of drifting in and out of games and being a bit mentally soft.
"It all ties in together with the confidence that we've gained with how we've been playing and that belief that we know we can score points, now we know we can defend and hold teams out."
Following the off-season recruitment of Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck the Warriors were installed as one of the competition fancies at the start of the year but struggled with cohesion in the opening few months.
Heavily criticised for their performances, coach Andrew McFadden tried to relieve some of the pressure with a more relaxed approach at training and Lillyman insists that they don't want to be subjected to any further abuse by dropping away.
"We were copping it left, right and centre over there from all angles from everyone," said the 32-year-old.
"Everyone was lining up to put the boot in, people that had never been involved with the club, and there was a conscious effort from 'Cappy' (McFadden).
"We were under enough pressure from everywhere else so he was going to take a bit of pressure off at training and enjoy it a little bit more and he encouraged us to play a bit more footy. Move the ball and play that Warriors style of footy.
"We did that for a few weeks and now we've started to refine it and I think we've really got the balance right and now it's good to see that we're actually playing tough.
"What we went through is still fresh in our minds and we're appreciating things a lot more now with how well we're going. And we want to continue that.
"We don't want to go backwards and be where we were two months ago. That's enough motivation in itself and without looking too far ahead we're pretty confident we can go on and do some good things this year."