Anonymity in the National Rugby League is a beautiful thing. The chance to fly under that ever-present radar and go about your business. Despite playing in the 2011 NRL Grand Final, the New Zealand Warriors are still well out of sight and well out of mind.
2160 kilometres away from the bright lights of Sydney and the hub of the rugby league world is Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland. The home of the next juggernaut to sweep through the NRL. Make no mistake about it, the Warriors are on the cusp of a scary dynasty.
The ingredients to a successful rugby league team hasn’t changed. You still need a star playmaker. The Warriors have the biggest thing since Benji Marshall in young halfback Shaun Johnson. A fearless hot stepper who can embarrass you with feet quicker than a bullet. Following in Marshall’s footsteps, Johnson is a young man who leads by example and knows that only form and victory keep you at the top.
A successful team needs a silky backline with size and speed. Manu Vatuvei, Kevin Locke, Krisnan Inu and James Maloney can hurt you from anywhere on the field. But the main thing about a backline is depth. The Warriors finally have it.
But forget about just how god damn potent their backs are or could be. Ladies and gentlemen, here stands the most impressive forward pack in the game. Young, tough, brash and most importantly talented. This forward pack demands respect.
A game plan can’t be followed without the big men doing their job first. Rolling forward over the advantage line and dominating their foes for eighty torturous minutes.
Imagine lining up against these guys at a cold and windy Mount Smart Stadium for a second.
Russell Packer charges into you first with his socks around his ankles and his legs pumping. After finally wrestling him to the ground you look up to see Sam Rapira roaring directly at you. Then comes Ben Matulino and Jacob Lillyman and Ukuma Ta’ai.
Don’t worry about Mount Smart Stadium. These guys can win away from home now too. Just ask the Melbourne Storm.
You’re scrambling and scratching and fighting to repel them. They then move the ball two wide to Feleti Mateo who jinks and props and shoves his massive hand into your face before offloading to a flying Simon Mannering. Its too late, they’re away again.
You finally get the ball back and look for a break in the chain. You see 5 foot 8, 85 kilogram Nathan Friend and you charge at him. Friend drives his shoulder into your stomach and the air rushes from your body. Before you have time to react, Michael Luck has finished the tackle by grabbing the back of your knee and driving you into the dust.
Pain is a rugby league players best friend. Whether accepting it or giving it, a player is only as good as his work rate. The worst part about all this for opposition teams is the New Zealand Warriors still don’t know how good they are. When they finally realise what all the fuss is there will be no stopping them. They are the fuss.
This article was originally posted on FootySocial.com.au and TheRoar.com.au