The New Zealand Warriors took the rugby league world by surprise in 2011 with an impressive run to the playoffs that saw them eventually go down to the Manly Sea Eagles in the National Rugby League Grand Final.
It was around this time last year that the Warriors clicked into gear and proved the experts wrong. Shaun Johnson became a superstar and the Auckland based club were on their way.
Forget the age of the team. Forget the inconsistency that has riddled their 2012 campaign. It is the business end of the season, forget everything you think you know. These young Warriors are once again set to make a run at the NRL Finals Series.
June last year was a horror period for the club. The Warriors dropped four consecutive matches in the month and were languishing after losses to the Sydney Roosters, Wests Tigers, North Queensland Cowboys and Melbourne Storm.
Round 18 and a new month saw New Zealand completely outplay the Gold Coast Titans 22-6. They would then only drop three more games on their way to the decider.
This year, in the corresponding round last weekend, the Warriors again put the cleaners through the Titans.
Is history repeating?
If Brian McClennan’s men beat the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, you can be assured that the clubs ahead of them on the table will be looking over their shoulder.
With three wins in their last four, the Warriors are now the second most dangerous attacking side in the NRL. Their 388 points for the year is only bettered by the Storm with 400.
And we now know that morbidly safe offence cant win you the Telstra premiership. Its all about flair, imagination and having the testicular fortitude to try things. The Warriors tick all these boxes.
Make no mistake about it. This is a better Warriors side than the one that pushed the Sea Eagles all the way in the big one last year.
They have also unleashed another boom rookie in the shape of giant centre Konrad Hurrell. At 6’0 and 105 kilograms, the softly spoken Tongan could be the wrecking ball that lifts the Warriors to the upper echelons of the NRL.
On Saturday night, Hurrell was unstoppable and completely outplayed Jamal Idris. His three tries against the Gold Coast takes his season tally to 12 and sits only three tries behind Ashley Graham.
“Off the top of my head I can’t recall someone that’s come from union as a young kid and take to the game so quickly” coach McClennan told AAP.
“I have seen some young guys that have come from (junior) league and just go bang and excel.
“Kevin Iro was like that.
“I’ve seen that happen but not from union to league.”