Stunning early season success a financial windfall for Warriors
While the New Zealand Warriors are only four games into what's shaping to be a successful season, that hasn't stopped their fans buying into the hype - literally.
Jersey sales, membership numbers and ticket sales have spiked as fans jump on board the bandwagon.
After an unbeaten start to the Telstra Premiership, the Warriors will shoot for five straight wins for the first time in five years when they take on the North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday at Mt Smart Stadium.
Staff at the club's merchandise store arrived to work on Tuesday morning after their Easter long weekend to find "hundreds of new jersey orders" piled up at the office front door.
The Warriors' online merchandise store has enjoyed a 30% increase in jersey sales in March compared to last year. If this trend continues, it could be the busiest year for merchandise sales in the club's history.
And memberships are also on the rise. The club now has 14,342 registered members, up more than 75% since January with an additional 1000 signing on following the round-one win over South Sydney.
Ticket sales have also spiked leading into three straight home games.
Those hoping to attend Saturday's double-header might be out of luck, with club officials confirming on Thursday to NRL.com they had already sold more than 19,000 tickets.
The Warriors have not had more than 20,000 in attendance at Mt Smart since the 2008 finals.
Warriors CEO Cameron George said the team's success was the key reason for the peak in interest, but he also said the style of their play was also a contributing factor.
"The lads are playing with a lot of pride and passion at the moment and I think the fans can really see that and relate to it," he said.
"Look, after a disappointing year last year, a lot of members were sort of holding off spending their hard earned money again but following the team's efforts of late we have seen a lot of fans come back and a lot of new ones jump on board so it's been great overall for the club."
The players, however, were wary about believing the hype.
Veteran forward Simon Mannering, who will play his first game of the year on Saturday after returning from a shoulder injury, said the players were enjoying the buzz from fans but didn't read into "any of that other stuff".
"We don't read it mate, honestly, I've seen stuff in the media get to some players in the past both the good and the bad so we just don't pay attention to at all and focus on putting in a good performance everytime we run out," he said.
"If I had in my way there would be no build-up, no interviews none of that - just turn up and play footy like the good old days but, we understand it's all part of it."
Coach Stephen Kearney echoed Mannering's thoughts on the side being under the microscope and has told his players to stick to their processes and not get sucked into the sudden rise in expectations after their surprising 4-0 start to the season.