The New Zealand Warriors were magnificent on the weekend, combining across the field to completely outplay the Gold Coast Titans to celebrate what was Ryan Hoffman’s 300th NRL game with a 34-12 victory. When interviewed after the game, brilliant halfback Shaun Johnson was quite enthusiastic about how much the milestone game had meant to the team. He said they had discussed it all week and everyone agreed that a special effort had to be made to ensure Hoffman celebrated with the win he so fully deserved.
It was only fitting seeing how Hoffman was such a great bloke and meant so much to his adopted teammates. His whole family were there to watch the game in Auckland and his young children even accompanied him onto the field. It was a great day for all the Hoffmans, all true fans of the Warriors and more generally the great game that is rugby league.
The monumental victory took the Warriors to six wins from 14 games this season and saw them firmly entrench themselves in the top 11 teams. So impressive were they that some fans were even caught suggesting a ninth place finish was not out of reach, especially if they could string together several more milestone games before the end of the season.
With a bye this week, the Warriors’ statisticians will have two full weeks to search the records books for a number, any significant number, which they can pass onto the playing group before they meet the Bulldogs on Friday week. After just a quick search I can reveal that Johnson himself will be running on for his 140th first grade game against the Bulldogs and has the opportunity to score his 60th career try, but whether or not those milestones are significant enough to raise a repeat effort from the Warriors players is not immediately known.
Veteran winger Blake Ayshford is a mere 43 games away from his 200th game, but that clearly won’t help with this year’s campaign. Inspirational lock Simon Mannering is 30 games away from his 300th, so, Warriors fans, there’s a big win to mark in your calendars for next season. Prop Jacob Lillyman is only eight games away from playing his 250th game, so look out Rabbitohs, you’re in for a tough one in Round 24 this year!
At the start of the season, when the experts ran their expert eyes over all the teams competing for the premiership, the array of talent assembling across the ditch impressed many. Experts talk about a team’s spine and in Isaac Luke, Johnson, Kieran Foran and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck the Warriors had one of the best, an International set of vertebrae. What the experts didn’t take into account when rating this team a Top 4 prospect was that there are only so many inspirational milestones each year.