3 Mar 2017

Warriors in 2017: Expect the best, or anticipate the worst?

4:46 pm on 3 March 2017

Opinion - The Warriors kick off their 2017 NRL season this Sunday, and the super-fans, the cynics and the realists all have their own ideas on how it's going to go.

Ryan Hoffman ponders the Warriors disappointing 2016 season.

Ryan Hoffman ponders the Warriors' disappointing 2016 season. Photo: Photosport

It's the time again when Warriors diehards go from mumbling "this is our year" to screaming it, while the haters roll their eyes, predict abject failure and bag the "naive" supporters.

I'm somewhere in between. I want them to do well even though I've been a Penrith Panthers fan since the early days of the Winfield Cup. But will they? Both the 'Mad-Butcher-Warriors-For-Life' type, and the 'They're-A-Joke' type make compelling arguments.

Shaun Johnson sees the try line.

Fans will be hoping Shaun Johnson will step it up for the 2017 season. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

THE SUPER FAN

(Has a Warriors tattoo and 11 different types of replica jersey, and is the president of the Shaun Johnson fan club.)

It's our year. I know I've said it before, we all have, but this year I have the faith. I have the faith like Brian Tamaki. Okay, bad example, but I believe.

It just all adds up for us. The best spine in the competition with a fully-fit Roger Tuivasa-Sheck joining Issac Luke and Shaun Johnson alongside super-signing Kieran Foran.

Last year the spine was raved about, then RTS got injured, so we're due some luck on that front and he'll be hungry to impress, especially as the skipper. The boys will follow him anywhere. I would too.

The draw (finally) helps. We're back at Mt Smart to start against wooden spoon favourites, the Knights, this Sunday. Getting off to a flyer is just what we need.

Having Stephen Kearney at the helm is also a big reason to get excited. He runs a tight ship, which our boys need and he'll get the best out of them.

While RTS, Luke, Johnson and Foran are a superb combination, the forwards are also looking better this year. The more experienced big men - Simon Mannering, Ryan Hoffman, Jacob Lillyman and Ben Matulino (when he's fit) - will continue to be solid, but the next tier of players finished 2016 on the up and they'll thrive under Kearney and there are a heap of young, exciting players coming through.

And when they start to dominate, Johnson and Foran and co will cut loose and we'll put 40 points on a handful of teams this year. The playmakers are going to have a massive 2017 with go-forward ball.

It's our year, I can feel it. (Please let it be our year).

Prediction: Champions

The Warriors' Bodene Thompson celebrates a try.

Bodene Thompson celebrates a try during the 2016 season. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

THE CYNIC

(Watches the Warriors each week, but already has a negative Facebook post written and ready to send before kickoff. Thinks Johnson is overrated and wonders what the Mad Butcher is on.)

Mate, are you having a laugh? Every year you preach the same old crap and every year they let you down.

It's not the players and it's not the management - there's something intrinsically wrong with the club that makes them under-deliver. I used to be a fan. I've got a handful of jerseys and even bought DB Bitter back in the day to support them, but I've been burnt more times than a Mad Butcher snarler.

You need to prepare yourself my friend, this is going to be another substandard year.

Yes, the spine is good now, but as we saw last year, you're one big player injury away from disaster.

And actually, is it that good? Tuivasa-Sheck was brilliant, but hasn't played for nearly a year and started last season pretty average. Luke had a woeful 2016, Johnson is only creative when the pack is going well and the 2017 Foran is the biggest unknown since John Kirwan turned up at Mt Smart.

Player movement rumours are usually on the money too and the rumours about him - Foran, not Kirwan - and the Broncos for 2018 aren't promising.

And why will Ryan Hoffman have a standout year when he knows the club don't even want him anymore?

Ben Matulino could be out for ages and while Mannering and Lillyman are solid, they're not match winners.

Kearney was a good signing, I've give you that, but McFadden is still there and most of last year's players are too. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

They'll break your heart again my friend.

Prediction: Heartbreakingly ninth, on points differential.

David Fusitu’a celebrates his try.

David Fusitu'a celebrates a try during the 2016 season. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

THE REALIST

It all looks good again, but I've been hurt before. Let's just wait and see. And hope for the best.

Prediction: Third/Fourth.

Matt Richens has been a sports journalist for more than 10 years, is a Penrith Panthers fan and a fairweather Warriors supporter.

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