Opinion: Five things we learned from the Warriors' loss to Panthers

OPINION: The Warriors' season is over after a 27-12 loss to the Penrith Panthers in Sydney on Saturday night.

The Warriors were playing in their first finals match since 2011 and failed to deliver against a near-perfect Panthers side, who were playing in their third-straight NRL finals series.

There was plenty to take out of the match, reflecting on the Warriors' season and what could have been.

At their best, it would have been hard to topple Penrith

The Panthers should be re-branded the 'Perfect Penrith Panthers' after that performance. It is hard to fault them for anything they did against the Warriors.

They put the Warriors under immense pressure, and they applied that throughout the entire game. Looking back, even if the Warriors were at their best, it would have been tough to beat such a dominant side.

James Maloney was simply toying with them in a controlled the ball as if it was it on a piece of string. On top of that, every bounce of the ball went Penrith's way.

James Maloney.
James Maloney. Photo credit: AAP

They only made five errors in the game and gave away very few silly penalties/silly mistakes, and that comes down to finals experience.

The Panthers are littered with experience, led by two-time champion Maloney. They've been to the last three playoff series, while the Warriors haven't made it this far since 2011.

Most of the Warriors players were in high school or playing in the under-20s league when they last made it to the playoffs. 

The young Warriors can only benefit from this looking forward.

Don't blame Shaun Johnson for the loss

The keyboard warriors were vicious towards the halfback for his performance, taking jab after jab at him.

They loved it. Taking any chance, they could put the knife in Johnson as much as possible.

Many accused the 28-year-old of not stepping up in the club's biggest game in seven years, while others said he was missing and overrated.

Shaun Johnson.
Shaun Johnson. Photo credit: AAP

Admittedly it was probably one of Johnson's worst games of 2018, and he'd likely admit that himself, but the blame shouldn't lie solely on him.

If you want to blame individuals for a bad game, why not blame Solomone Kata's poor play-the-balls and weak defence? Or blame Issac Luke for kicking the ball out on the full? Or Adam Blair for throwing bad offloads and a missed tackle?

All these things contributed to the loss, but it was a poor team effort which let them down in the end.

On top of that, the Warriors had no go-forward so how do you expect Johnson to make the breaks or come up with the plays? 

The Warriors have been all about team this year - they win as one and lose as one. The same applies here.

Sadly for Shaun, being the million-dollar halfback means you'll be the one who gets the praise when the team wins, and get the hate when they lose.

Warriors need to re-sign Issac Luke and Jazz Tevaga

Issac Luke wasn't perfect in this game but his contribution has been tremendous this year, and we need to secure his services for 2019 and beyond.

He has really lifted his game in 2018, and it has shown. If he is to leave, that would mean the injury-prone Nathaniel Roache would likely be the new starting hooker, but can he stay healthy for an entire season?

Other options are Sam Cook and Karl Lawton - both are good in their own right, but they're no Luke.

Jazz Tevaga.
Jazz Tevaga. Photo credit: Photosport

At a stretch Jazz Tevaga can play hooker, but he needs to stick to his ball-playing lock role which has seen him thrive this year.

Barely played first-grade in 2017, he has burst onto the scene, with big runs and always looking for offload which has seen the Warriors get lots of second-phase football.

He was nominated for the Warriors' Player of the Year and should remain in that role if we retain his services.

Sad way to see Simon Mannering retire

The greatest Warriors player of all time officially retired on Saturday night.

It wasn't the way the departing veteran wanted to end his decorated career with the club, but he ended his career in the most Mannering way possible.

He played most of the game with a sternum injury that could easily have ruled him out, but he played through because he's the Ultimate Warrior.

Simon Mannering.
Simon Mannering. Photo credit: AAP

He continued to put his body on the line and tried his heart out, by making tackle after tackle and trying to spark something with some strong carries.

Sadly it wasn't enough and his career ends after 301 games.

Fans should be celebrating the 2018 success

Despite how poor the Warriors were in their final game of the season, everyone should stop and take a minute to look back at what they achieved in 2018.

Heading into the season the Warriors were predicted by many to claim the wooden spoon, and Stephen Kearney was picked to be the first coach given the boot.

Opinion: Five things we learned from the Warriors' loss to Panthers

Well, the Warriors ended up with 15 wins during the season - tied for second-most in the club's history. They finished with eight away wins - which equals their most in a season - while they ended a number of hoodoos with a win in Perth, to go along with rare wins in Canberra and Kogarah.

They achieved so much more than people gave them credit for, and with the majority of this squad returning next season - with the inclusion of Leeson Ah Mau, the Warriors are set to build on their success, and they will only improve and get better looking ahead.

Ben Francis is a Newshub online sports producer. 

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