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No place like home for Warriors

By Ben Horne and Nicky Park 14/08/2010 10:54:56 AM Comments (0)

The Warriors are keen to maintain control of their NRL finals destiny when they host desperate Newcastle at Mt Smart on Sunday.

The Warriors know that if they secure a top-four berth, they can go from rank outsiders to genuine threats.

Mt Smart Stadium is the Aucklanders' best weapon, and when you're talking about finals football, it's an even scarier place for opposition teams to visit.

It's not often the Warriors' fate is in their own hands come this time of year, but a solid final month will put them well in the hunt for a home playoff match.

However, it would be a mistake for the Warriors to let top-four aspirations cloud their thinking, as they're only a loss or two away from dropping out of the eight altogether.

They received an alarming wake-up call losing winnable games to Souths and Gold Coast, but got their campaign back on track with a convincing win over Cronulla last week.

Coach Ivan Cleary said everything's in perspective for the NRL's unknown quantity, as they prepare for the Knights.

"There's only four games to go, you don't have to look too far ahead," he said.

"But I think everybody knows the carrot's there if you can put some games together. There's some good rewards at the end of it, (like a home final).

"I'd love that. There's a lot of hard work to be done, but it's a nice incentive I guess."

Seasoned centre Brent Tate admits it's not healthy for the Warriors to dream about a Mt Smart final.

But realistically, he knows a match in Auckland in either week one or week two of the finals will determine whether they can roll through to the grand final.

"I never sort of like talking about it or getting too far ahead, but I think for us it would be crucial," Tate said.

"We've got a pretty good record here at home plus I think it would be a huge advantage for us personally and for teams having to travel here - obviously it would make it really difficult.

"I know a lot of the Aussie-based players hate coming over here when it's wet and cold and miserable, they hate those sort of conditions and we're used to it. You can almost ride that wave of emotion that comes with getting a home semi."

Finishing up at the end of the season, Tate has the personal incentive of trying to end his time at the Warriors on a positive note.

Off to North Queensland next season, the former Queensland and Test star believes a fairytale finish is possible.

Newcastle must win to keep their slim finals hopes alive, and their free-flowing attack of late makes them pesky opposition.

The Knights are expected to be without halfback Jarrod Mullen, who has a rib problem.

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