Tuesday, May 21

Sooky and the Tigers

If you are a supporter of the Warriors and you don’t have a second team that you support, then next season I suggest that team should be the Tigers. Not because of Benji, and not because they are struggling. But because they were the only NRL club that showed enough compassion and friendship to bring their home game to NZ.  And by doing so, they acknowledged the sacrifices the Warriors players, whanau, and management had made due to the impact of Covid, when no other club would. If you want an example of doing the right thing, look no further than the Tigers. A struggling side who needed home advantage more than anyone else having won the wooden spoon, decided at the beginning of the season to take their game to NZ. That’s integrity. So next season, Up the Wahs, and Let’s Gone Tigers! 

Ricky (Sooky) Stewart made the news again for the same reasons he usually does – being a crybaby. This time he was caught on camera telling the cameraman to “F**k off”. Incredibly, the Fox News producer apologised for this, saying they crossed the line by invading his space. Why? How? He wasn’t filming him in the bathroom! He was on the bloody sidelines like he always is. How is this any different from them cutting to the coaches’ box? The NRL should come down on Sooky, big time. But they won’t because… they were probably cracking up at it as much as I was. Ricky Stewart press conferences have become an absolute joke and must-see viewing.  I now find myself tuning in for them whenever Canberra loses because … There’s just nothing funnier in sports these days than watching Sooky throw his toys like the petulant child he is. Every time he loses, it’s always the ref’s fault and he shits the bed accordingly. As a Canberra fan, you must have enjoyed the coach standing up for the club and players over the years, but surely it’s beginning to take its toll. They must now be realising he’s just a poor sport and spoilt brat. He reminds me of some privileged, snot-nosed little private school captain who has had daddy sticking up for him his whole life and thinks if he can kick and scream enough, he’ll get his way. Canberra gets some rough decisions at times. But certainly no worse than the Warrior’s. I’ve never seen a Warriors coach behave as poorly as Sooky though. Ever. 

Speaking of shit sportsmanship, the NRL deserves to slap themselves for how the Warriors have been treated this season – on so many levels. It simply goes to show that unconscious bias goes beyond the referees. It’s now clear that the NRL only cares about money and doing the right thing is simply a luxury they can’t afford. And the Warriors, despite their potential, just don’t deliver enough financially to carry enough weight required to action any meaningful change or shifts in mindsets in head office.

Just when the NRL have yet another opportunity to do the right thing by allowing the Warriors to play their finals game at their home ground, they are now likely to step in to subject the Warriors to playing the game at Eden Park. Despite the Warriors’ sacrifices over the past 3 years, the NRL decided that the Warriors should travel more than any other club in 2023, and now in their infinite wisdom have also decided the Warriors shouldn’t have the luxury of playing finals at their spiritual home. Could you imagine the fury if Cbus Stadium held 120,000 seats and the NRL forced the Broncos to play there instead of Suncorp?

However, perhaps there’s a good compromise to be had – a deal, if you will. And that could be if the Warriors win their first game against the Broncos or Panthers, and they play their preliminary final at Eden Park, but should they lose their first finals game, and have to go into a play-off game to reach the prelim, then that can be played at Mt Smart (Go Media Stadium). A preliminary grand final would definitely sell out and require a bigger stadium for more people to experience it. Better than better-than-average chance a play-off would too, but the Warriors should have that on their terms when their backs are against the wall.

On the topic of finals, here’s another reason why the NRL should slap themselves… Playing finals footy a week after the regular season ends is ridiculous and only serves to advantage teams whose last regular season game is played earlier in the week because it provides them with extra time to prepare. As an example, the Warriors could face the Broncos in week one of the finals. But due to the anomaly of the draw, the Broncos end up with an extra 2 day’s preparation (9 in total) and zero travel, whereas the Warriors would have to fly to Queensland twice in the space of 7 days. As if the Broncos haven’t been given enough this season. They got Magic Round there, the Dolphins home game there – hell, the Warriors even gave them Reece Walsh back!

The other factor is that due to the new (and appropriate) concussion protocols in place, clubs could have influential players unavailable for selection in potentially their only finals game – when they desperately need them the most. This plays a large factor in why some coaches are choosing to rest players for the last regular game of the season. They don’t want to risk their star players. But in doing so, they dilute the quality of talent on show and also create the unusual situation where a club might make finals footy at the expense of another, only because a side placed higher on the ladder decided to rest their p[layers and suddenly become very beatable.  

Yes, players could get injured or concussed during finals games. But at least start with a level playing field where everyone has had adequate time to prepare. It’s fine for the NRL to bring in concussion protocols, but they need to now factor this into the business end of the season and at least allow everyone a fighting chance from the outset. Having said all of that, I guess it makes it all rather interesting. But I just hope the Warriors’ last round of the season next year falls on a Friday night.