Simon Mannering has played 193 games for the New Zealand Warriors since his debut in 2005, yet the captain admits he still ventures into the unknown when leading one of the NRL's most erratic sides.
His experience at Remondis Stadium yesterday perfectly illustrated the frustratingly inconsistent form the Warriors are prone to showcase from week to week.
Sublime during stages of a rollicking win over the Wests Tigers in Wellington last weekend, against a winless and bottom-placed Cronulla they veered to the ridiculous before crashing to a 37-6 defeat.
A third successive win would have lifted the Warriors into the top eight - at least temporarily - but instead they confront another rebuild and serious introspection after an error-strewn performance left them on the outer ahead of an ominous assignment against the Bulldogs in Auckland next weekend.
Mannering is no stranger to the scenario - and questions - he confronted post-match yesterday but still was unable to offer an explanation.
"If we had an answer it wouldn't be happening. It's (consistency) has been pretty poor of late. It's definitely a tag you're not proud of," he said.
Outplayed - and guilty of playing into the Sharks' hands - the Warriors squandered another gilt-edged opportunity to add two competition points against an opponent whose coach, Peter Sharp, predicted was a "million miles" from a win after a scoreless exercise in Newcastle in their previous match.
"We definitely took a step backwards and we definitely need to find an answer because we can't be going up and down throughout the season," said Mannering, who admitted he could not predict how his side would front on a round to round basis.
"There was nothing in our preparation that said we were going to play like that."
He highlighted the Warriors' defensive accuracy - Manu Vatuvei and Dane Nielsen were regularly targeted by the Sharks playmakers - but poor handling was just as critical.
Head coach Matt Elliott preferred to highlight that deficiency, vowing the players' "lack of respect for possession has to be turned around."
He was satisfied with the defensive effort, despite conceding their highest score this season.
"One thing that wasn't absent was a heap of effort, we just had to put too much effort in defensively," Elliott said.
"The defensive effort from 90 per cent of guys was exactly where it needed to be, but 90 per cent is still not high enough."
Hooker Nathan Friend led the way with 71 tackles, though even that statistic had a downside for Elliott.
"Those numbers sound great ....I know in the first half they had a hundred plays. They would have gone close to repeating that (in the second), that's monumental," he said.
"I thought Friendy's effort was colossal but you don't want to be making that sort of effort."
- Fairfax Media
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