Tuesday, May 21

The Ted Lasso effect

If you still haven’t seen Ted Lasso on Apple TV, I highly encourage you to do so. It will only bring you joy. Its first season arrived during Covid and the first lockdown, which looking back, was perfectly timed. We needed it. Just as the players and club in the television show needed Ted (and vice-versa), so have the Warriors needed Webster. 

The main takeaway from the show, is to be kind and that we shouldn’t judge a person by what they do when they are at their lowest. 

Last year, the Warriors sunk about as low as they could get. In fact, statistically, it was their worst season – ever. They were lucky to not pick up the wooden spoon, landing 15th of 16 teams. Which is what makes this season’s comeback so remarkable. And you can contribute it, for the most part, to what Andrew Webster had bought to the club – a growth and improvement mindset. 

Lasso and Webster don’t compare in their qualifications to coach their sports. Lasso had barely ever seen a game of football, having only coached college football in Wichita State, which is the source of much of the hilarity of the premise. 

Webster on the other hand had diligently compiled a complete resume within league coaching circles and was ready for his step up to the big show. And full credit needs to go to the Warriors CEO and owner for not bowing to the temptation of trying to sign a name to please the fanbase and generate marketing spin. They hired a qualified candidate who also had a solid understanding of the clubs’ challenges, having already spent time in Penrose as an assistant to McFadden. 

What both Lasso and Webster have is a love for their players and a desire to improve. They build confidence in the individual and work to instil a team first focus. Loads of coaches aim to build a team, but Ted and Webster’s point of difference is that they have managed to develop the belief in their teams. And I’ll tell you what – it’s very infectious. For the first time ever, the Warriors have sold out a regular season home game, a week out from the match. The support for this team has been consistently building, even when they were losing. How?

Belief.

Supporters can see it in the team’s performances, even when they lose. They can see the effort. And just as the team are beginning to believe in the team themselves, they’re giving the fans something to believe in too. Now naturally no fan wants to lose. Of course, we prefer to win. But we can still enjoy and appreciate a good game when see our players put in the effort. 

And that’s what has been happening. The drive for improvement and playing for each other has rejuvenated the fanbase for this club and it’s now just starting to take on a feverish quality. People who had once given up on the team (and who could blame them) are now coming out of the woodwork, thrilled to see a side they can feel they can cheer for – win or lose. 

Webster continues to shy away from the platitudes being sent his way and redirects them to the players and his coaching staff. And that’s what Ted also does. Because it’s the right and human thing to do. 

Webster is clearly one of the good guys and his nature and mindset is rubbing off. It’s creating a swell of positivity never seen in the Warriors. This is quite the opposite of what Ian Foster managed with the All Blacks, although Scott Robertson‘s appointment could slowly reverse this, in time. 

But as rugby teeters toward a slow death in 2023, the Warriors are reviving the countries love for league and if the players can resist getting themselves into trouble off the park and stay out of the headlines for the wrong reasons, then there’s also a chance that the mindset towards league could shift from being the second class, meathead sport, to one that captures the hearts of the wider masses. Add a second franchise to the mix and league could really begin to challenge union for dominance in viewership, should Robertson fail – in the long run. 

With all this in mind, the Warriors head into Friday night’s game in a prime position to shift from fifth on the ladder, to third. Penrith plays Melbourne and if they win, and the Warriors can beat South’s by more than 10 points, they will leapfrog the Sharks (bye) and potentially Melbourne – depending on the points diff in both games. 

And it’s possible. The Latrell Mitchell-less South’s ride into a packed house at Go Media (it will take me a long time to get used to that name) Stadium on Friday night, and the five-day turnaround won’t give them much time to fix the defensive woes they have accumulated over their last five games, where South’s have conceded 164 points, at an average of 32.8 a game. That’s a concern when you consider that they only conceded 150 points within the first 11 rounds, averaging 13.6 a game. Whereas the Warriors have conceded 78 points in their last 5 games for an average of 15.6 points a game – less than half that of Souths.

On top of the defensive steel they have developed, the Warriors have scored 30-plus points in each of their last three games – the first time since 2002. All of which will have Russell Crowe trembling in his boots this weekend. 

Despite all that, the Bunnies looked dangerous at times against the Cowboys. It was one of those off nights where passes were slightly overcooked or didn’t stick. If they had, the scoreline would have been very different indeed. The Warriors and their supporters would be foolhardy to take them for granted. Vocal criticisms of how the poor referee’s decision making could be improved, should be highly encouraged! 

Many across the Warriors fan pages are pleased to see Latrell Mitchell missing from the Bunnies line-up this weekend. However, we should be disappointed. The Warriors are going great, and it would have been awesome to see him up against Charnze and how the Warriors dealt with the South’s fullback. 

I think that mindset of being glad he’s not in the team is a negative one that we need to lose from our supporters’ mentality. The Warriors no longer need favours of Origin or big names missing from other teams to win. It’s going to be more thrilling to watch the Warriors rise to the challenge and beat those teams with superstars. Because the Warriors players are quickly becoming the star club themselves. Let the other clubs hope Egan, Johnson, or Charnze aren’t available. 

Let’s embrace the challenges, the way Coach Webster and the team have. 

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