With the NRL being at the midpoint of the season, and the New Zealand Warriors sitting in fifth place on the points table, are they now travelling with the maximum of velocity?
Well, no. However, while having not played particularly well at times, they have still ground out seven valuable wins.
They may not have been at their best, but, still, normally at this stage of the season they’re usually back somewhere around thirteenth position and forced to make a late surge into September football. By which time the tank is running on reserve and they come to a grinding halt in the first couple of weeks of the play-offs.
Not so this year, though. It’s all starting to look good for the boys from Mt Smart as the pleasant aroma of finals football looks to be mounting an effort to waft its way into this team’s near future.
Sure, it’s not all smelling of roses.
Their defence may do for them very nicely, but other aspects of their game such as the attack have stuttered along at times. Injuries have visited. Manu Vatuvei the most noticeable. The amulet that was he has been hobbling about on one leg since his return from a serious knee injury suffered in round one.
So, what could be that something or someone special that turns the Warriors into a genuine premiership force?
How about that Kevin Locke? Seems like a pretty good bet doesn’t he?
Ever since Ivan Cleary was forced to put him at fullback three weeks ago, Locke has made every post a winner. With more space and freedom at the back to weave his special brand of magic, he has been going to town on opposition defences and waltzing his way around defenders with a monotonous regularity.
It’s not like he wasn’t a decent winger. He was. Fullback, though, seems becoming of him.
What was more than a respectable talent out wide may now turn into a supernova ready to delight his legion of fans with an explosive display of counterattacking majesty from the back.
A sidestep here, a shimmy there, a sixty metre dash much to his foe’s despair...he’s got it all has Locke. Toughness personified, he is. Numerous times since his stint at fullback began he has been the recipient of some bone rattling tackles.
Do you think that would deter him? Oh no, not the young Locke, Back to his feet in no time at all, onwards and upwards for him. Packing a punch way above his weight. Reminiscent of Billy Slater, even... and he’s not too bad, is he?
Similar in build, very close in running style, reach for the stars and he could become more than just a Slater-lite.
Slater is regarded as the best fullback ever. What’s to stop Locke from going to those dizzying heights?
More than likely nothing as long as the hard work is put in.
Which seemed to go out the door in 2010 with a sluggish effort on his part after the bright lights of stardom had infiltrated his being during his debut season the year previous appeared to go to his head.
This year, he appears to have discovered the humility to allow his development to forge forwards. By all accounts it seems he has knuckled down and worked his backside off, and is now back on the straight and narrow.
Which, of course, is great for the Warriors as he could just be that x-factor needed to make their presence felt in October.