Once will the Warriors deliver?

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu'a of the Warriors look dejected after losing to the Penrith Panthers ...

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu'a of the Warriors look dejected after losing to the Penrith Panthers last month.

Can anyone keep the faith with the Warriors?

As another desultory season draws to an inevitably limp close near the bottom of National Rugby League ladder, can even die-hard fans can look ahead with any hope?

Question marks have always followed the Auckland-based professional team since their debut in 1995. Apart from two grand final appearances in 2002 and 2011 it has been a broken record of early season promise and mid to late season disappointment.

Outside those two years they have only made the playoffs five times in 20 years, and haven't been close in the last seven.

After their dispiriting loss to the last-placed Newcastle Knights last weekend, the Australian Fox News website said the Warriors were the biggest disappointment in the competition.

Their "spine" - fullback, halfback, five-eighth and hooker - was loaded with internationals, but only Roger Tuivasa-Scheck has been close to living up to his star billing. 

And even he  has gone backwards according to a withering assessment of the club from former star and media commentator Matthew Johns: "The worst rap a club can have is that when players go there, they get worse."

That's not to say professional leagues around the world don't have their share of futility. The Chicago Cubs set the benchmark with a 108-year drought before they finally won baseball's World Series last year.

By comparison the Warriors are relative novices in the winless stakes, and there is a chance they can turn it around.

The Cubs did it with a new front office, the development of young players and buying a few seasoned stars.

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League commentators have pinpointed poor junior development as one of the key reasons behind the team's failure to deliver.

That's all the more puzzling because the club has won three under-20 titles in nine years. Clearly the talent is there but something is missing in getting them ready for the next step. 

Should anyone outside of hopelessly optimistic fans care what happens to a group of highly-paid professional sportsman, especially when some were accused by their own coach last week of not trying?

The Warriors were one of our flagship sporting teams, and their entry into the Australian competition was a thrilling development, welcomed by most sports followers.

But their lack of success, especially coupled with a lack of that other sort of spine, has eroded their image to the point where it will take something radical to turn it around.

Perhaps they should ask the Cubs.

 - Stuff


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