Club flags, jersey-clad fans screaming out ‘Come on Warriors’, a Māori dance group performing the Haka, a Warriors’ face framing the tunnel entrance, the club mascot doing cartwheels on the sideline … Moreton Daily Stadium truly became the Warriors’ home ground today as the side beat the Brisbane Broncos 20-6 in a dominant performance.
That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of Broncos fans there – there were thousands of them – but if there was any doubt, the moment when Warriors’ star halfback and fan-favourite Shaun Johnson approached the Des Webb stand sealed it.
The fans roared as he raised his hands in the air, and then applauded them. And the broad smile on his face said it all. It was his first home game in a while and it was obvious he was thrilled to be back in a Warriors’ jersey.
The crowd also enjoyed the moment that followed, when he walked over and embraced the new kid – Reece Walsh. Magic.
It was a different Warriors side on the field this afternoon, more confident, more solid in defence, and more eager to run the ball up and score.
They also kept applying the pressure to a Broncos team, which seemed to lack direction at times and made too many errors.
Photos: Matt Rodin
Head Coach Nathan Brown was pleased to see his team dominate in the mid-field.
“I thought our big boys did a great job. I thought it was Lodgy’s (Matt Lodge) best game since he’s been at the club. He certainly delivered on what we spoke about during the week,” Brown said the post-game press conference.
“We certainly scaled our game back a little bit, so we didn’t come here and expect to play the greatest brand of footy as far as (being) entertaining. We scored a couple of nice tries but we certainly scaled our game back.
“All of our halves and hookers and fullback have never played together before, so it’s obviously a bit of new one for us. To defend the way we did – they’ve got some extremely gifted players that are very dangerous - I thought our cage defence was very good as it was last week.
“We scaled back, toughed it out and defended well. I thought we got a well-earned victory.”
The plan is to keep working hard and defending with purpose while they build their attacking combinations.
Key to that attack is Johnson and Brown said it was good to have him back in the team this week after a pectoral injury in round one.
“He’s obviously a very experienced player in a position … it’s hard to find those players. We’re lucky, in a way, that Shaun is from the Warriors and wanted to come home because when they come on the market, those type of players and blokes with that sort of skill and experience … it’s certainly hard for a club trying to go up the ladder to attract those players to your club. It’s not easy,” Brown said.
So how did Brown enjoy the atmosphere?
“It was brilliant. Today was probably the nearest thing to a home game that this club’s had for nearly three years. We train here every day, we sit in this room every day, most of the blokes live around the corner … we haven’t experience that as a football club for nearly three years,” he explained.
“To come here and get a nice sort of tough victory … next Friday (April 8, 6pm) we’ll be back here again and we need to make sure this is our home until we do get back to Mount Smart.”
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