Warriors well positioned to beat Sharks - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Warriors well positioned to beat Sharks

By Xavier La Canna 14/08/2008 05:47:01 PM Comments (0)

It's sometimes called Fortress Mt Smart - and not without good reason.

The New Zealand Warriors' home ground has often been a graveyard for the top NRL teams and this year has proved no different.

They may not travel all that well but the Warriors can sure turn it on at home as Melbourne and Brisbane discovered in recent weeks in their surprise losses across the Tasman.

This Saturday the Warriors are looking to add another high profile scalp in third placed Cronulla.

The Warriors' record in New Zealand this season tells a story.

They have won seven out of 10 home games, including the past three.

At home they have conceded 183 points this season, compared to the 348 points their opponents scored against them in their 11 away games.

Warriors captain Steve Price says there's a number of reasons opposition teams struggle in Auckland.

Price has seen Mt Smart from both sides, after moving to New Zealand to join the Warriors in 2005 after playing for the Bulldogs.

"It is a pretty big trip. I know when I was at the Bulldogs, just going to the airport and having to go through customs and sort of a three-and-a-half-hour flight is very different to what you are normally used to," he said.

"Particularly if you are a Sydney team, you only probably have two or three trips in the whole year where you go away. If it is Auckland it is a long way to go."

Price said the two-hour time difference throws some players off a bit, as does the Auckland weather.

"The weather conditions don't always seem to be what the away teams enjoy. It is very different. It is cold, it is windy, it is wet."

The loud home crowd probably plays its part too.

In a country where rugby league takes a back seat to rugby union, those who turn up to support the Warriors tend to be passionate.

When the team made the top four last year a call went out to "black-out" the stadium, and thousands of supporters turned up wearing dark clothing.

"The crowd is quite intimidating. It is a very parochial crowd and it is very close," Price said.

New Zealand sports psychologist Sara Chatwin said teams were boosted playing in front of a home crowd for two key reasons.

"At home the team feels they are accepted and supported on the one hand, and on the other hand they want to prove themselves to their home crowd," Chatwin said.

"I guess they put up their best effort because they are in front of people who know and love them," she said.

She said away teams should could improve their chances by getting to their playing location as early as possible, and by minimising any differences from home.

Warriors assistant coach John Ackland said it was not unusual for home teams to have an advantage.

"It is always better to play at home. Like you feel familiar and the crowd are with you and you sleep in your own bed and that sort of stuff," he said.

But just winning at home isn't expected to be enough for the Warriors to make the finals this year.

While two of their four remaining games are at Mt Smart (Cronulla and Penrith) they have another two in Sydney (St George and Parramatta).

And with a dreadful points differential (-95) the Warriors (10th, 24 points) are likely to need three wins to make the eight.

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