Senior Warriors players have rallied together to try to reassure their younger counterparts as they head into a tough game against the in-form Bulldogs tomorrow.
After a week from hell in which an off-field spat between co-owners Eric Watson and Sir Owen Glenn has taken centre stage, tomorrow's NRL fixture at Auckland's Eden Park has been all but forgotten.
The match looms as the first chance for stand-in coach Andrew McFadden, who replaced the dumped Matt Elliott at the helm earlier in the week, to show the team can turn around their ailing fortunes.
The Bulldogs will be a tough assignment. They have beaten the Roosters and Storm in the past two weekends and come into the afternoon game having won most of their past match-ups against the Warriors.
This is before the Eden Park hoodoo is even mentioned. The Warriors have never won at the central Auckland stadium, at least not when it comes to NRL matches, and will head into this match having been seriously spanked by the lowly Sharks last week.
But, history says that teams facing adversity often perform their best.
Jacob Lillyman, who is in his sixth season for the Warriors, said the whole team was "shocked and disappointed" at the sacking of Elliott.
"It wasn't something that we were expecting, especially this early in the season." Lillyman said a few of the senior players had chatted about the situation soon after the announcement, but after a few days most members of the side had accepted they had to get on with their own game.
"We have got a game this weekend to concentrate on. We had a really good training session so I am confident we can come out and put together a good performance.
"We are all professionals and at the end of the day we are here to win footy games. It's about getting behind [McFadden].
"After what happened last week it is about coming out and putting together a real solid 80-minute performance." Lillyman said there was no shortage of motivation.
"We just want to put all the disappointment behind us and come out and win a game." The Bulldogs are an attacking threat, particularly in the halves and through their bustling forwards.
Lillyman said the Warriors' big forwards would have to stay up in the line and put pressure on their halves.
Captain Simon Mannering admitted it had not been an easy week.
"We are doing our best to try and put it to one side and move our focus to this weekend, but it's never a nice thing if your coach is gone this early in the season," he said. "Obviously it is a refection of how the team's been performing. As players we have got to take that on board. It's not just one person's fault. He [Elliott] has copped the blame for it. We have got to take responsibility as well."
The match gets under way at 4pm.
- Fairfax Media
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