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SPIRIT OF '55: Ending 57 years of Warrington Wolves pain was never going to be easy
3:32pm Tuesday 18th September 2012 in Wolves news
SO that’s what a lead balloon going down sounds like.
For about an hour Wire v Saints threatened to turn into a classic play-off tussle, two top teams in a closely fought contest.
Both teams had managed to create one try each, the difference on the scoreboard was there because Warrington had gifted St Helens another try and Saints had given nothing in return.
In the back of my mind was the thought that Wire hadn’t had their trademark burst of 15-20 minutes, that burst that has so often been the difference in matches this season, when they score three or four unanswered tries. It either never materialised or Saints managed to withstand it.
Early in the second half Wire did crank up the pressure and had several attacks on the Saints line.
We were waiting for the floodgates to open. They did, only at the other end.
An excellent break by Lomax down the Saints right led to a try that not only saw the end to Warrington’s period of pressure, but turned out to be the first of a few St Helens tries as they started to rack up the points.
In a way the Wire tasted their own medicine, in that the game throughout was very even if you just watched the action to both 20metre lines.
This one was the very rare occasion where Wire were outplayed at both ends of the pitch.
St Helens defended their line with great enthusiasm and organisation, and gradually picked holes in Warrington’s goal line defence.
I honestly think the spirit was still in the Wire team, seeing them celebrate keeping St Helens out in the South East corner late on in the first half, as if they had just scored a match winning try, was a glaring example of that.
They would support each other after they made a mistake and congratulate each other after doing something good. It was simply a case that too many of them had a bad day.
Many of the crowd seemed to be getting on their backs at the end, lots of the handling errors came when they were chasing the game.
One thing’s for sure with this team that they will try to do whatever they think gives them the best chance to win the game, even if they know there is a great chance that option will result in them suffering a bigger defeat and some embarrassment.
Personally I prefer that to a team who plays out the percentages, with no true intention of winning, just so they can save face.
One day they will pull off a miracle come-from-behind-victory and all those extra margins of defeat will be worth it.
It’s amazing how one bad performance can destroy the optimism of so many fans around me.
Three Challenge Cup wins in four years, finishing in the top three in the league for the last three years and consistently beating their main rivals over the last two years seemed to have been all forgotten in the space of a few minutes.
Instead, some people have decided to focus on play-off failures in previous seasons. Unfortunately it does seem to be the case that most humans' default setting is for negativity and pessimism. Hopefully the players and coaches don’t share this setting.
Now the team is staring down the barrel of being stuck with one of the labels any sports star least wants, that label being one of a ‘choker’.
To suggest a team or an individual doesn’t perform their best when it matters is one of the deepest cuts a sports star can receive, because it fundamentally goes against everything about them that makes them so competitive.
From previous seasons Wire already have this reputation from fans of other clubs and maybe a few of their own fans. What they have to remember is reputations can change.
In his early days Nick Faldo had a reputation for letting golf tournaments slip through his fingers, so much so that the American press began to label him ‘Foldo’.
By the end of his career he had made a mockery of that name and was universally acknowledged as one of the great pressure players of all time.
As a young player Roger Federer got the reputation of being a talented player without the mental toughness to win a major championship, so far he has proved that farcical assessment wrong on 17 occasions.
Manchester United undoubtedly choked in trying to win the league title in 1992. They could’ve continued to play the role of chokers as they looked for their first title in 26years, instead they became the team that all others feared being around the lead towards the end of a season.
On the last day of the football season, last May, Man City looked like living up to their reputation of being a joke club one more time, until two goals in stoppage time fought the huge weight of history and started to build a new reputation.
In rugby league until the last few years Leeds were known as the ‘glamorous’ big city club that would virtually never win the championship. Their modern day players had to battle to create a new reputation, now they are the team that all the others desperately want to see eliminated from the play-offs.
Reputations come about from actions, and actions can change and actions are under your control.
The good news from Saturday night’s game was that Wire picked the best day in the play-offs to have a bad day.
Players need to think how bad that defeat felt and times it by about a thousand to imagine how bad an elimination from the play-offs will feel.
They can take their feelings from winning the Challenge Cup and times them by about 10 to imagine how good it will feel to win the ultimate prize at Old Trafford, a prize that so many are saying they’re not capable of winning.
The situation hasn’t changed too much from last week, though. Wire still need to win three consecutive games to be champions.
Now they have to set about building a new reputation, starting with this weekend’s home game, hopefully played out in front of a full house of supportive fans.
Ending 57 years of pain was never going to be easy. No destination truly worth getting to has an easy journey to get there. You have to believe before you can achieve.
Spirit of '55