You don't care if you're running first. This is about next year. What ...
3 days ago
In the same week that rugby league honoured its good guys off-field work at the annual One Community Awards it seems fitting that one of the NRL's nice guy teams, the Warriors, is set to play for the NRL's ultimate prize this Sunday.
Whilst their opponents Manly have managed to get themselves offside with the game's CEO, most of Sydney and...well...just about everyone for a variety of reasons over the last 4 weeks and 40 years the Warriors have presented a compelling case for bandwagon supporters.
For starters there is the way the Warriors play the game. Fast, hard and effective, their preliminary final victory was a master class in rugby league execution in the face of extreme pressure. Yet, at the same time, one could not accuse them of being robotic, as witnessed by Shaun Johnson's touch footy inspired final improvisation act against the Storm.
Then there are the players, most of whom it's hard to say a bad word about. The stereotype which stupidly still gets banded around by some lazy observers is that the team is a bunch of monster meatheads, when in fact the Warriors are a team with many players small in stature but big on heart. Players like veteran Lance Hohaia, one of the comps small men and the only survivor from the 2002 decider. Young blood and Kiwi heir apparent Kevin Locke, a young man just realising his potential who so valiantly stood tall in the face of Melbourne's experienced bruisers. And then there's the forward pack with Luck, Mannering and co, a bunch of blokes who are for the most part more bobcat than bulldozer.
And finally there's Mr Cool himself, coach Ivan Cleary. Much has been made of Cleary's time spent playing with Manly this week, a job he did with distinction and little fuss. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who could say a bad word about him as a player, he just didn't give you anything to dislike, and this feeling has generally carried over into his coaching days. Whilst the collective NRL landscape cried foul during the Warriors finals match against the Tigers when penalties piled up for the home team Cleary appeared more bemused than berserk, a composure that was later rewarded in his side's last ditch win.
All of these have ensured that when the Warriors run out on to ANZ this weekend they'll be faced with a completely different Sydney reception to what they're used to. But, along with the other thousands of new Warriors fans, I hope that they remember to keep some things just the same as always.
Vic's tip: Warriors by 4