From any angle the Warriors' season a failure
OPINION: From whatever angle you look at the Warriors' 2013 season, the end assessment is that it was a flop.
Coach Matt Elliott was keen to roll out the stat that if the season was split in two the Warriors would have finished the second half of it in the top four.
The reality is, it is a pointless discussion because their final round 19-10 loss to the Dragons quashed any attempt to convince people this team had turned a corner.
The playing roster had top eight written all over it but the end result was 11th - that means a bright red fail stamp can be slammed over the 2013 season before it gets filed away.
So what went wrong?
Why is it that a team with the attacking potential that many other clubs can only dream of have finished 11th?
Let's work through this step by step.
Early in the season they were getting run over late in games.
They looked at ease leading games only to see the two competition points disappear as a result of some meltdown.
Two games stick out - the round five loss against the Raiders in Canberra when they led 16-4 with 27 minutes to play only to lose 20-16.
In round nine, against the Bulldogs in Wellington, they suffered a similar fate.
The Warriors led 16-0 after 30 minutes and with seven minutes to play they held a 16-12 buffer, only for the Bulldogs to score two more tries to win 24-16.
Fitness was raised as a possible reason at the time but according to the Warriors camp the players were in tip-top shape after a robust and challenging off-season.
If this was the case then concentration levels through 80 minutes, rather than fitness standards, can be pin-pointed as the problem.
On the face of it the Warriors simply lack that killer instinct, the ability to put teams away.
They look like they enjoy winning but some players don't hate losing, something which separates the good teams and the also-rans.
When the pressure is applied the Warriors have a tendency to crumble and it would be hard to argue against that given some of their results.
Defence has been the obvious glaring downfall in 2013. They can be brittle.
In the space of 10 minutes they can go from an enthusiastic team aggressive on defence to looking like their feet are stuck in mud as they stand 10m back and let teams run at them.
Good defence is a concoction of attitude, execution and trust in your team-mates. That wasn't always evident with the Warriors this year.
Another area of concern this season would have to be the form of Ben Matulino. If the Warriors want to play playoff footy next year they need Matulino back to his best.
He has transformed from being one of the best props in last year's NRL competition to having a ho-hum campaign in 2013.
They also did not get enough out of new recruits Dane Neilsen and Todd Lowrie who were indifferent and didn't provide any sort of kick-start the club needed.
Next up is Shaun Johnson - he's the future of this club and lumping him in with talk of the 2013 struggles could be regarded as harsh given he continued to do things that most players in the game will never be able to.
However, there is a feeling if the Warriors are to take the next step he needs to threaten the defence by running to the line more.
He has tended to pass well before the line, going through games without making opposition defences tackle him.
He needs to have opposition defences constantly worrying about him running with the ball.
He is the man in the Warriors setup that will confuse defenders.
The fact the Warriors beat three of the top four teams this season suggests they have the ability to be a force in 2014, but what they will be well aware of is that ability alone doesn't make you a playoffs team.
However, it was not complete doom and gloom.
Johnson developed as a frontline goal kicker.
Thomas Leuluai started the season with many doubters but turned out to be the best player for the Warriors and it was hard to ever doubt his effort.
In 20-year-old Ngani Laumape, the club has found a wing/centre who looks like he can carve out a good NRL career.
It's hard not to be touched by the Suaia Matagi story this season.
Matagi has gone from spending time in prison to turning his life around and this year making his NRL debut.
By the end of the season he was a regular in the Warriors match-day 17.
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