Judiciary boost for Warriors, now time to end home hurt
Stephen Kearney got the desperate defensive effort he wanted against the Dragons last week and received another huge result on Tuesday night with key interchange forward Bunty Afoa cleared by the NRL judiciary to play against visiting Newcastle on Friday night.
Now all the coach desires is a hearty dollop of consistency from his thoroughly unpredictable Warriors, a team somehow in the eight despite last winning at home on May 5 when the West Tigers were mauled 26-4 at Mt Smart Stadium.
Kearney is convinced a bit of attacking "polish" can get the job done against the Knights on Friday – presuming his men match their defensive heroics from Wollongong. The problem is you don't really know what you are going to get from the Warriors one half from the next, let alone one match from another. Nor do they sell attacking prowess in a "magic pill", worrying given the Warriors haven't scored a single second-half point in their last three starts.
"It is a challenge," Kearney conceded when asked how the Warriors can start nailing the "little moments" they're currently fumbling, the passes forced and the balls spilled with the tryline begging.
"It has to start at training. If you see it [errors] at training, at some point or another in a game it is going to rear itself. "
Is it simply a concentration thing?
"No, no... I think it's a practiced habit but sometimes I think when you're free of shackles and things that are weighing you down a bit, I certainly think that helps in terms of the flow, particularly in attack."
The huge defensive effort that produced the Warriors' first win over St George Illawarra in Wollongong last Saturday was a monkey off the back, particularly so in the wake of round 20's limp 36-12 loss at the Titans.
"But again, If we could take a magic pill and it (attacking execution) happens like that, it would be wonderful. But it doesn't. It's something you have to work at and all of the sudden the magic happens."
Cue the "boring old" coaching clichés from Kearney.
"You know, this competition, which has shown it all year and particularly the last two rounds, there is no guarantees. The guarantee is if you prepare well, both physically and mentally, you give yourself every opportunity to play well on the weekend. I know it's a boring old mind set but that's the truth of it."
Kearney will be relieved Afoa is able to continue preparing for the game after being cleared of a grade one dangerous charge on Dragons prop Leeson Ah Mau, who will transfer to the Warriors next season. With back-rower Tohu Harris now hobbling on both knees and prop Sam Lisone serving a two-week suspension, Kearney desperately needs Afoa's impact off the bench.
A club-best 8-3 away record this season has masked the Warriors' surprising home hoodoo in 2018 which has included four successive losses dating back to round 10 – against the Roosters, Rabbitohs, Sharks and Storm.
"There's a lot of reasons I reckon," Kearney said of the home hurt.
"Our last two performances, Cronulla was three points, Melbourne was six points and in both those games there were moments when we could have swung it back our way but we weren't good enough to execute those moments.
"That's where we've got to get to. When that moment presents itself on Friday night, we've got to be prepared and committed to taking that moment because I've got no doubt it will come at some stage. We've just got to be better, we've got to improve."