New Zealand Warriors down and out... again.   23 Aug 2005

writes Nathan Burdon

The Warrior’s 22-10 loss to the Melbourne Storm finally put the NRL franchise, and its supporters, out of their misery. All avenues are now exhausted and there’s no way Stacey Jones and his men can qualify for the top eight play-offs.

The last month or so has been a slow death for the club, which ran the gamut of media terms from "must-win" to "keep its slim play-off hopes alive" to "still a mathematical chance". But in reality we were watching the slow death of a club that appears to be in denial. Its salad days, which culminated in that memorable grand final loss to the Roosters, are now distant enough that the Warriors can no longer trade on them.

The team needs to become more consistent to justify not only its position within the NRL, but within New Zealand’s sporting consciousness.

We hear that the club has been in financial difficulties for some time, and it’s little wonder. Few of the Australian NRL clubs are in a healthy financial situation and most only survive on the endless clack-clack of the pokey machines in the league’s sports clubs which prop up their respective clubs.

The Warriors do not have the use of such a cash cow, although they do have millionaire owner Eric Watson. Some wealthy men enjoy having a sports team in their corporate stable for whatever pleasure they bring, and without Watson the Warriors would have been history some time ago.

Unless the results turn around then the club’s gate, the other major source of income outside sponsorship, will continue to dwindle, particularly among the season ticket holders. Unfortunately, the immediate future for the Warriors holds little hope. With the bulk of the team’s salary cap tied up in props Steve Price and Ruben Wiki, there’s no cash available to add a bit of mental steel to the undoubted attacking flair the team possesses. Even with Jones heading to France at the end of the season the club has elected to buy in only a relatively unknown Sydney-sider yet to play first grade.

Coach Tony Kemp appears to have the full backing of the board, but that situation would surely not last right the way through another disappointing season and chief executive Mick Watson said at the start of this season he expected to be the first one to go if the results didn’t come in 2005. And they haven’t.

Some good clubs will miss out on this year’s play-offs, amongst them the Bulldogs and Roosters. But unlike those two teams, it’s hard to see the Warriors making any giant strides in 2006.

NRL tip: Top four – Broncos, Dragons, Eels and Tigers.

Final: Broncos and St George-Illawarra, with the Dragons to take an upset victory in the final.

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