The 8-point margin seems to me to be an accurate reflection of both the match itself and the status of both teams in the competition. The Roosters are likely a top four team (albeit not necessarily playing like one ... yet!); we'll perhaps challenge for eighth place, at best. So all things considered, and with a handful of our best players out, it was a commendable performance.
I like the way Brownie handled the press conference. He's right: there is no global conspiracy against the Warriors from the NRL hierarchy all the way down to the various whistleblowers in charge. That stuff is like the Trumpers claiming that the 2020
election was stolen in some form of mass coordination. The truth is, the Warriors have some calls go against them, and some for them. Just like most teams do. Payten was probably correct in his assumption that the rub often goes against the weaker sides as part of an unconscious bias. But anything else is just fishing for excuses.
The more pertinent point is what Brownie said about the boys stopping playing footy and reverting back to predictable one-out hit-ups. You could see it happening: we got 8-0 up and the brakes went on. The expansive play that had been working so well was iced in favor of safety first. It almost seemed like they were trying to run out the clock. The problem was, there were 60 minutes or so left still.
The Roosters were super fast in defence, pushing up in waves, and for some reason, we were playing way too deep with the ball and kept turning it back inside. So by the time the ball runner had a head of steam up, they were getting pummelled at the line. When the speed against you is THAT fast, it's imperative you think laterally ... literally ... and get some width on the passes to get outside it. Or, go over the top with short kicks to the wings to catch out the outside backs. That was Shaun Johnson
's responsibility, and he didn't deliver.
Brownie knows this. He's mentioned it numerous times over the past few seasons (he said as much pre-game: you can't beat teams like the Roosters just banging the ball up the middle). However, it's a recurring pattern of thought amongst the key on-field decision-makers. Faced with the pressure of a high-paced, well-drilled line, they revert back to safety first. And it rarely ends well.
There were some positive signs though. Chanel Harris-Tavita
is growing into his role with every game. He's clearly feeling more confident and empowered and is starting to take the line on a bit too. This is needed because post-Archilles rupture Shaun Johnson
is no longer a threat with his feet. The psychological scars are deep (I speak from experience as I'm currently dealing with the same thing), which means that passing and kicking is his thing now. You can see defenders pull off Shaun Johnson
these days knowing he's not going to challenge them directly. That means Chanel Harris-Tavita
will have to start posing more questions with the ball to compensate.
Also, it has to be said: Curran
is just a beast. He's like a young man's Michael Luck: fearless, tireless, and super committed. He looks like a leader of men, and speaks like one too.
On the flipside, Walshy is fas less impactful this season. Perhaps the opposition have figured him out, or he's just not clicking with Shaun Johnson
yet and getting the ball at the right time and place. When he first hit the NRL, he was so electric. Brash, arrogant even. He demanded the ball and got it when it wanted it. Remember those cut-out passes for tries? He was a menace every time he touched the ball. This year, not so much. Perhaps the rigours of being smashed week in and week out have caught up with him. He lacks bulk and these fellas hit HARD. Whatever it is, we need his mojo, and Shaun Johnson
has to position him better to create those overlaps in the way he did so effectively with Tomkins.
Next weekend will be a free hit for us. No one expects the lads to win. So hopefully freed up from any expectation, they can relax a little and play more footy.