Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck isn’t treating August’s return to New Zealand as a welcome home party and has urged his teammates to follow in the footsteps of the 2008 team as they look to get their season back on track after the bye.
The Warriors have been based in Australia since the start of the 2020 season due to Covid and haven’t played in front of their home fans since they lost to the Rabbitohs on August 30 back in 2019.
But 716 days later, they’ll get the chance to run onto Mt Smart Stadium when they tackle the Bulldogs in round 22 in what will be one of the most emotional matches of the year.
The Breakers and Phoenix enjoyed some success when they returned home to familiar surroundings in the NBL and A-League respectively, and it’s hoped the Warriors will play in front of a packed crowd when they get to Auckland.
The match will also double as Tuivasa-Sheck’s final game in New Zealand before he switches codes, but the skipper has no time for sentiment and is more concerned about picking up two crucial competition points against the Bulldogs.
“It’s going to be special going over there to play, but what we want to look at is going over there and having a purpose to play because we want to play finals,” he said.
“We don’t just want to go there to be at Mt Smart. We want to go there and have the support to get us into the finals. I don’t want to go there to play my last game at home. I want to go there knowing that we’re going to take the Warriors to the finals.
“I follow the Breakers, so I’ve seen how they played here in Australia and then what they were able to do back home.
“But we need to get each individual to fire up and make sure we play well over the next few rounds so when we do go home, it’s for the finals.”
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck wants to return home with a purpose. Picture: Jonathan NgSource:News Corp Australia
The Warriors sit in 11th spot leading into the representative bye, but two wins in a row could have them back in contention given how congested it is around the bottom of the eight.
They are in a similar position to the 2008 Warriors who also had just five wins after 15 rounds but won eight of their next 10 to sneak into the finals, where they beat the ladder-leading Storm in one of the biggest upsets of all time.
Hooker Ian Henderson was part of that side and he recently spoke to the current squad about how they turned things around.
“They were in the same situation in 2008. They were placed eighth and they ended up beating Melbourne who were first that year,” Tuivasa-Sheck said after his side went down to the Knights with their fourth loss of the season by four points or fewer.
“They just said they all looked at each other individually and asked what they wanted from that year, and I think those are the types of questions we need to ask ourselves. We can either sit back and let this season go by or take control of it by individually being honest with each other.
“We’re doing some good things, but there have been a lot of little lapses in our performances where we do bad things. We’re trying to find the answers, and hopefully we can reset over the bye.”
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