NZ Warriors make 5350km trip for 'home' game
The Warriors have travelled 5350 kilometres for tonight's game against the Rabbitohs.
It's a long way to go for an away game, but it's a comforting factor for the players that most of the crowd at Perth's nib Stadium will be cheering for them, rather than their Sydney-based opponents.
Getting most of the support is something the Warriors are used to, thanks to ever-increasing number of New Zealanders emigrating to the other side of the Tasman, and the club sells more replica jerseys than any other NRL outfit, with a large being bought by Kiwi expats in Australia.
So even though tonight's game is officially a home fixture for the Bunnies, hooker Nathan Friend knows it will be his team that gets the biggest cheer when they run out of the field.
"It will feel like a home game," Friend said.
"We played there last year against the Rabbitohs also and we had a great crowd - it was predominantly more Kiwis at the game.
"A lot of them are over there for the mines and it's the case that everywhere we play outside of Sydney, there is more support for us than the opposition.
"We have a great support base wherever we are. It might be because there are Kiwis everywhere, but I know there are Aussies that have jumped ship and come on board.
"I think that's great. We're near the top of the board on attack, and along with that comes support, because people enjoy that."
The Warriors went into this weekend's round lying a lowly 12th on the ladder, but are just two points behind the fourth-placed Rabbitohs. So congested is the points table that only the Sharks and Knights could probably be written off as having little chance of finishing in the top eight.
Both the Warriors and Rabbitohs will feel they have momentum heading into this game, with both winning four of their last five games. The Burgess brothers, John Sutton, Greg Inglis and Issac Luke will all be players for the Warriors to watch, but they'd hope that Sam Tomkins, Ben Matulino, Shaun Johnson and Jacob Lillyman cause similar levels of concern inside the Rabbitohs' changing shed.
"We've certainly got a lot more improvement in us and it's good to notch up the victories but we really need to concentrate on this week's game," Friend said.
"We know how tough it's going to be. The Rabbitohs are a quality team all over the park, whether that be on attack or defence. They don't allow too much leeway, so we're going to need to take our opportunities and execute really well."
Friend regards his opposite number, Luke as the most dangerous player in the Rabbitohs. The Kiwis hooker played his first game back from a shoulder injury against the Dragons last weekend and is likely to be used as more of an attacking weapon in this round.
"He has blown out a few cobwebs now," Friend said.
"Every time we play them he's our main focus because the big guys allow for quick ruck speed, and when he gets that he's a destructive, so if we're not on our game we're in trouble."