New Zealand Warriors: Test of travelling credentials will hold key
Notoriously bad on the road, the New Zealand Warriors must win four sudden-death games away from home to win the 2018 Premiership. It’s not out of the question.
Death, taxes and the Warriors losing away from home.
For much of their existence, there have been three constants for the New Zealand Warriors. Death and taxes come to us all, but the Kiwi side have had a unique and often challenging relationship with playing football away from the land of the long white cloud.
For years, the expectation for the Warriors would be a strong home record and, if they were hoping to make a run to the finals, something they last did way back in 2011 under coach Ivan Cleary, they’d need to bag a few surprise wins on trips across to Australia.
Those wins on foreign soil have consistently failed to materialise since the Warriors entered the competition in 1995.
A horror season on the road
Last season, they only managed seven wins in total in what amounted to a horror campaign. Just one of those seven wins came away from home and that was a 34-12 win over the Titans on the Gold Coast, a ground which has historically attracted plenty of Kiwi support thanks to the extraordinarily high Pacific Islander population in the area.
Even the year before, in 2016, the Warriors only managed four wins away from home in a total of 10 wins for the season.
Long story short, the Warriors have consistently failed to find wins while playing in Australia and that has pretty much always been the case save for a couple of exceptions along the way.
Normally, that sort of horror record would stand as the biggest concern for the club heading into a possible stretch of sudden-death games, all of which will be played on Australian soil, but the 2018 Warriors are a different breed altogether.
Not only have Stephen Kearney’s troops been good enough to put together a 15-win season and make it through to the finals for the first since 2011, they managed to clock up more than half their wins away from home.
Trending in the right direction
Of their 15 wins in 2018, eight have come on the road. A record of eight wins, four losses at home this season puts the Warriors right up there with the minor Premiers Sydney as the best travelling side in the competition and surely holds the key to a successful end to the campaign.
First up, the Warriors tackle the hot-and-cold Penrith Panthers at Sydney’s Olympic Park precinct, a ground which the Warriors have played on just 20 times, one of which was their heart-breaking 2011 Grand Final loss to the Sea Eagles.
Overall, their record at the ground isn’t great, winning just seven of those 20 games, losing 12 and coming up with a solitary draw against the Bulldogs way back in 2000. An eighth win at the ground will book the Warriors passage through to the next round of the competition and consign the Panthers to the history books for 2018.
An eighth win at ANZ Stadium might also be another step in the long process of turning around the long-standing hoodoo away from home.
If Stephen Kearney, tipped by many to be the first coach sacked at the start of the season, has managed to unlock the secret to make the Warriors consistently competitive on the road then the rest of the league is on notice.
They’re flashy, they’re tough, they’re fast and they boast one of the most talented spines in the competition, but if they can win away from home, they might just be unstoppable.
Will the Warriors beat the Panthers this Saturday evening and improve their away record? Let us know in the comments below.