Tuesday, May 21

When fans stop being fans

Can supporters be critical of their club, players, and team selections, or should they keep their thoughts to themselves and only be allowed to express their support as unconditional love?

I love the Warriors. Like many die-hard supporters, I’ve ridden this roller coaster since the club’s inception in ‘95. And like with any sport, my loyalty has often been tested. But I’m still here. Yet if something isn’t going well in my life, I don’t just sit back in denial and just be grateful to be alive. I speak up and look for improvements – just like the Warriors have been doing themselves. 

It would be fair to say that since the Warriors made the grand final in 2011, there hasn’t been much to cheer about – perhaps aside from winning their first 5 games in 2018, before they were unceremoniously bundled out in the first round of finals footy by the Panthers. Covid has inevitably impacted the growth of the game and club. And it clearly had a huge impact on the Warriors players’ well-being. If witnessing the revival of Shaun Johnson isn’t evidence enough of that, nothing will be. 

But now, the fans genuinely have something to boast about – a club, coach, and team on the rise. They have emerged from the ashes of Covid with a new improved mindset, smiles on their faces, and for once supporters aren’t doing the maths on whether the Warriors can still make the top 8 – rather, the top 4. 

All of this is awesome. The club isn’t perfect, but that’s what the players are striving for – the perfect game. The continuous drive for improvement. And yet, if you follow the comments sections across social media fan pages, you’ll discover any criticism is often swiftly met with disparaging disgust, instructing you to shove your opinion where the sun doesn’t shine. There’s a lot of supporters who seem to think that any criticism of Shaun Johnson’s previous years of poor form should be seen a disloyal offence, punished by banishment. That criticising selections is sacrilegious. And that it is only permissible to express positive messages of unconditional love, regardless of how well the team or players may have fared. All couch coaches should shut their mouths. If your opinion doesn’t align with theirs, then you’ve obviously never played the game so keep it to yourself. 

All of which is a stark contrast to the new mindset and culture the club has implemented themselves. The issue here is many are taking constructive criticism as hate speech toward the club or players. They see it as being disloyal, whereas others see it as a continuous striving for perfection. I’d encourage all fans to take a lead from the club’s new culture and embrace the criticisms. If you’re so inclined, argue against them. But dismissing them because they don’t align with your own views is what cowards and narcissists are made of. Of course, you can always just scroll on by. 

There’s also a faction of Warriors fans across message boards who consider themselves more elite than other fans because like me, they’ve been foolish enough to support the Warriors through thick and thin and don’t just get on the bandwagon when the team are winning. These tragic diehards believe they are entitled to belittle those jumping on the bus when it suits them, because they feel they have suffered to have earned this privilege. While I’m a diehard tragic myself, I’ve always enjoyed watching friends and colleagues return to the fold. The way I see it – they’re not addicts, like myself. The fact that the die hard tragics see themselves as elitist is hilarious. Trust me, you’re not. You’re stupid – or arguably mad, especially if you consider the definition to be doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. You’re addicts. And you seem to think you should be held in higher regard, because you are unable to deal with your addiction. I applaud and commend those that can take a break from watching the Warriors when they’ve turned in half a season of painstakingly poor performances without any logical signs of improvement. That’s smart and clearly those are people who have their shit together. If someone was treating you the way the Warriors have treated their fans with sub-standard performances through the last 9 of 11 seasons, would you stay with them? Would you tell a friend to stick with them? No, you’d tell your friend to dump that sorry ass and get on with their life until their ex wises up and changes their behaviour. Despite the Warriors emotional abuse towards their fans, many have stuck with them and think they should be rewarded with a higher self-promoted status. No. 

If you belittle fans that are returning to watch the Warriors because they are now providing a much better product and playing with an improved mindset, then you’re no different than someone who has lived at home with their parents for 30 years and bump into an old friend who has returned to their hometown to settle down with their family, and give them shit because they are jumping on the bandwagon. However,…if they throw their hands in the air and walk away after one game, like we saw many do after the Bunnies wet weather massacre, then you have cart blanche to call them out for being sore losers.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. 

The Good – the Rugby League Players Association (RPLA) decided to put a stake in the ground by having players strike against giving media interviews. Frankly, I hope the NRL stand firm just so the RPLA keep this action going a bit longer. Because in the last 10 years, can anyone ever recall an interview from an NRL player that was memorable or interesting? The players have become media trained and guarded. And while I appreciate the logic of this, listening to them trying to answer questions appropriately is about as painful to absorb as Blocker Roach reading the dictionary. In fact, that might be more entertaining. 

The Bad – Adam Pompey produced six errors on the weekend against an Eels B-side. This catapulted him into the top 10 players for most errors. Pompey appears destined to sign with the Knights next season. The arrival of RTS, re-signing of Ali Leiatua, along with Websters persistence with Berry and the fact he and Brayden Wiliame are signed till end of 2024/25 means there’s not a lot of room left for Pompey, who’s contract expires this season. Expect an announcement soon – unless the Knights power brokers were watching him play last weekend. 

The Ugly – Last year, Melbourne Storm players were given third party deals to stay with the club, that involve a stake in the betting agency owned by the club chairman. I feel like I’m the last person to find this out and everyone is cool with it. What the actual f…?