Tohu Harris never gave up hope of playing in the NRL finals again despite leaving the Storm.Defying NRL expectations is what the Warriors have been doing for the best part of 15 years.
Be that for good, or bad.
Just ask the rusted on fans of the New Zealand club, who watched as arguably the best spine in the game won just seven matches last year to miss the finals for a sixth straight season.
External expectations for this year were then laid bare when former Kangaroos centre Ryan Girdler remarked in commentary during last year’s grand final that Melbourne star Tohu Harris would be playing in his last decider after he had signed to head across the Tasman.
The sledge infuriated Warriors fans, who watched their team defy the critics to sit in the NRL’s top four for the best part of the opening 15 rounds before finishing eighth to set up Saturday’s elimination final against Penrith
“I vaguely remember that, ” Harris said, when reminded of Girdler’s comment this week.
“We probably have (proved critics wrong) but we’ve not really taken much notice of outside noise. That’s not our focus on why we perform.
“We just try and keep our thoughts and focus in what we need to do throughout the week to play well.”
Few teams do the opening fortnight of the finals from the bottom of the eight as well as the Warriors.
Since their run to the grand final in 2002 from first place, the Warriors have won six of nine matches in the opening two weeks of a finals series.
All six of those victories have come as the lower-placed team, while the one time they’ve been the higher ranked outfit it ended in defeat.
So they find themselves in a familiar predicament against fifth-placed Penrith on Saturday – heading into a finals series they’ll have to contest entirely on the road.
But unlike the past – where the Warriors won just 19 of 68 games in between 2012 and 2017 – they’re now confident away from home after recording their first winning record outside Auckland since 2010.
“I don’t think there should be any fear anyway,” Harris said.
“This time of the year isn’t something to fear, it’s something to be excited about and be excited to be a part of.
“When you look forward to things and you do it in a positive way I think you’re giving yourself a better chance to perform because that’s what this part of the year is about.”