Hurricanes vs Warriors: Is it OK to start believing yet?

11:40 am on 7 May 2018

Over the weekend, two teams with famously tortured fan bases got another reason to start thinking 2018 might be the year, writes Jamie Wall.

Fans of the Warriors

Fans of the Warriors Photo: Photosport NZ

For one, it's the continuation of a dynastic period of dominance that's already won them one title.

For the other, a chance to finally break free from a lifetime of underachievement.

Just what does it mean for Hurricanes and Warriors fans right now? Is it time to actually start thinking that this season could end with their teams holding up some silverware?

After a tumultuous 10 days, the Warriors got their season back on track at Mt Smart. Fresh after getting thumped by the Storm, the club was granted a pretty good way of getting everyone's attention off that with the sudden twist ending of the ownership saga.

After confirming that the club will be going back into the hands of the Auckland Rugby League, the team put on a clinical display to dispatch the Wests Tigers and take their season record to seven wins and two losses.

At the same time at Westpac Stadium, the Hurricanes simply ploughed on to record their eighth win in a row. It wasn't the best performance from them, but then again neither were their wins over the Sunwolves, Chiefs and Sharks. But they were still wins.

Supporting both of these teams throughout their histories has been a tough ask. Right now, though, Hurricanes fans can count on the fact that they have two of the three Barrett brothers to complement a steady, well-drilled side. As well as that structure, the team also has built a reputation for taking unheralded players and turning them into try-scoring phenoms: 2016 it was Willis Halaholo, last year Vince Aso, and now Ben Lam.

Both the sides have been beset with injury, with the Canes losing TJ Perenara and Dane Coles, and the Warriors doing without Johnson and now Issac Luke. However, both have overcome the setbacks with admirable performances by reserve players grabbing their chances.

Mason Lino proved to be a more than capable injury replacement for Shaun Johnson. Karl Lawton, a discard from the Gold Coast Titans, made his first grade debut on Saturday night and scored two tries. Meanwhile, Ricky Riccitelli has been a lynchpin for the Canes' front row in Coles' absence.

However, most of the Warriors' success so far has been down to key players actually playing to their potential. Adam Blair and Luke's motivations were questioned at the beginning of the season, but they've shown themselves to be fully committed by producing some of the best football of their careers.

Super Rugby is about to hit its business end, and the Hurricanes will know more than anyone that clinching the top spot in the NZ Conference is crucial for their chances of winning a title. The good news is they've still got two matches against the struggling Blues, and a couple more gimmees against the Brumbies and Reds. But the pressure is on for another Super Rugby title, which is vital to cash in on this golden period of talent.

There's still a long way to go in the NRL, though. We're only 10 weeks into a 25 match regular season, but that is a large enough sample size to know that it would be incredibly disappointing for the Warriors to miss the playoffs from here. The true test will come after the Origin period, however it's safe to say they've already got their worst performance of the year out of the way.

So yes, it very much is time to start visualising both teams heading for glory in 2018. For the Hurricanes, the weight of expectation is higher given their recent title and glut of All Black talent. In a way, the Warriors have probably surpassed the expectations many had placed on them already.