OPINION: Another chapter in NZ Warriors history has been completed, but this one has a different feeling to it.
Under most circumstances, the Warriors would have been criticised for another disappointing campaign that saw them miss out on playoffs football for the eighth time in the last nine years.
But even though they finished outside the eight, the way they finished the season has fans more upbeat, with reason to believe heading into next season.
Coronavirus had a massive impact on how the Warriors' season played out - along with a difficult schedule - but seeing what Todd Payten has done since taking over has changed perception of the team.
Usually, Warriors fans would be annoyed at falling short again, but the team kept fighting until the death.
This season has been full of dramas, from being stranded in Aussie by the coronavirus pandemic to Stephen Kearney's shock sacking, but every player - whether they stayed for the entire season or not - deserve 10 out of 10 for their efforts this year.
But on the field form is another story.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 7
Seemed to struggle at the start of the campaign, but found his blistering form in the back half of the campaign, despite being homesick and being away from his family. Was exceptional during the Warriors' late-season charge and sadly a hamstring injury brought his season to a premature end.
The club will be heartened by his pledge of commitment for next season, despite rumours of a code switch.
David Fusitu'a 4
Kearney opted to play Fusitu'a at centre early, but from the outside, he's a better player on the wing. Clearly struggled with separation from his family - and pregnant partner - and eventually returned home with only try for the season.
Ken Maumalo 5
Like his fellow winger, he clearly struggled away from his family, although he did score five tries in his last four games, before heading back to New Zealand.
Adam Pompey 7
If one player made the most of their opportunities, Pompey was that man. The 22-year-old really stood up when Maumalo and Fusitu'a departed, and seemed to get better with every game.
George Jennings (loan) 5
Considering he arrived with a lack of game-time, Jennings was impressive and his play will probably earn him a new NRL contract somewhere, although he's unlikely to return to the Warriors. Played with lots of energy and passion, before his Eels recall.
Peta Hiku 7
Hiku seemed likely to move on at the end of the season, but he played himself into a new contract. His ability to put players into space or over the tryline was outstanding, but his defence is still questionable.
Patrick Herbert 5
Injuries prevented the utility from getting more game-time and - seemingly - a new contract. Had a couple of decent games, inclduing the season-ending win against Manly which did bump his rating.
But his failed put-down against the Sharks in Round 10 was costly. The Titans are apparently interested in his services
Gerard Beale 3
Filled in when needed, but never had the same impact as the players he replaced. Great to see him back after a horror injury last year though.
Hayze Perham 5
Like Pompey, Perham made the most of his opportunities in the Warriors' starting side, even if he was out of position. Great to see the highly touted youngster get a chance.
Blake Green 5
Much improved from the year before, as he seemed to control the team better around the field, but a messy exit overshadowed his performances.
Kodi Nikorima 7
With a full pre-season under his belt, Nikorima showed glimpses of what he can produce as he led the team around the park. Led the team in try assists, but needs to run the ball more and maybe the addition of bigger forwards next year will encourage that.
Chanel Harris-Tavita 6
Once Green departed, Harris-Tavita really stood up. Took time to develop as the main playmaker, but improved with every game and signs look promising for the future.
He plays with his heart on his sleeve and lots of energy, which you love to see.
Wayde Egan 6
Was a handy addition to the squad. Really impressed in the second half of the season, when he came off the bench and brought control to the Warriors attack against tiring defenders.
Karl Lawton 7
His utility values were put to the test, with stints off the bench, second row, lock, centre and hooker. Enjoyed a breakout year, eventually owned the starting hooker role and was strong on both sides of the ball.
Agnatius Paasi 3
Didn't have much impact this year, with all his games coming off the bench and running less than 100m in all of them. He returned home early and his future at the club is up in the air.
Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 7
Considering he came from nowhere, the Melbourne-born prop held his own in a challenging first NRL campaign, playing 19 of a possible 20 games. Not many would have expected him to play that much, but circumstances dictated his continued presence.
Probably won't play as much next year, when the Warriors are fully stocked at prop.
Poasa Faamausili (loan) 6
Was the Warriors' first loan player and left his mark on the team. Could've been around for longer, but the Roosters picked up injuries and he returned to his parent club.
Jack Hetherington (loan) 7
The Warriors' best loan signing came at a crucial time, when the Warriors began pushing the best teams in the competition. Brought aggression that left a lasting impression on the team.
Daniel Alvaro (loan) 4
While his opportunities were limited, the Eels prop did improve after every game, with strong carries and good tackles.
King Vuniyayawa 4
Brought impact off the bench and probably got more game time than expected, but will probably miss out on a new contract after returning home early.
Lachlan Burr 6
Didn't feature as heavily as last year, but did make an impact, more so towards the back end of the campaign, as he pushed for a new contract at another club. Was a handy squad player and will be a good pick-up for someone.
Adam Blair 5
Played every game this season, bringing an end to a stellar career that sees him retire as most-capped Kiwi in the NRL. Was brought in for his leadership more than anything and hopefully this rubbed off on younger players.
He was best coming off the bench as an impact player. Thanks for everything, Blairy!
Tohu Harris 9
Was great to see Harris back to his best, as he was easily the Warriors' best player this year. He had a massive impact in the middle of the park, although he took time to find his feet, after a lengthy playoff.
Little to fault about his performances this year.
Elisa Katoa 8
The young Tongan's emergence was the highlight of the season, as he earned a surprise debut in the Warriors' opening game and was their best player before the lockdown.
Injury saw him tail off towards the end of the campaign, but that's understandable for a player still learning the game.
Jack Murchie 6
Did well under trying circumstances, after linking up with the team in Australia before the season resumed, and his form earned him a new deal at the club. Murchie was impressive towards the back end of the season, although he did have an error or two in him.
Isaiah Papali'i 5
After starting last year, the young forward saw limited opportunities off the bench and was surpassed by the likes of Murchie, which indicates his future lies elsewhere.
Jazz Tevaga 7
Missed the start of the season through injury, but his impact was immediately noticed when he returned and was a big reason for the Warriors' late season revival. He is a workhorse and loves getting into the thick of the action, whether that's tackling or getting in an opponent's face.
If Nathan Brown happens to read this, please keep Tevaga at lock and not at hooker.
Not considered due to lack of first-grade play: Adam Keighran, Josh Curran (three), Leeson Ah Mau (two games), Paul Turner, Tom Ale (one) Taane Milne, Nathaniel Roache, Leivaha Pulu, Bunty Afoa (zero)
NZ Warriors' 2021 contracted players
Backs: Euan Aitken, Rocco Berry*, David Fusitu'a, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Peta Hiku, Ken Maumalo, Kodi Nikorima, Israel Ogden*, Hayze Perham, Adam Pompey, Junior Ratuva, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Paul Turner
Forwards: Bunty Afoa, Tom Ale*, Leeson Ah Mau, Josh Curran, Wayde Egan, Kane Evans, Addin Fonua-Blake, Jackson Frei, Tohu Harris, Eliesa Katoa, Karl Lawton, Jack Murchie, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Agnatius Paasi, Tyler Slade*, Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, Jazz Tevaga
*Denotes development contract
New arrivals: Ben Murdoch-Masila (Warrington Wolves), Junior Ratuva, Kane Evans (Parramatta Eels), Euan Aitken (St George Illawarra Dragons), Addin Fonua-Blake (Manly Sea Eagles)
Departures: Adam Blair (retired), Gerard Beale, Lachlan Burr
Off Contract: Patrick Herbert, Adam Keighran, Taane Milne (reportedly signed with South Sydney Rabbitohs), Isaiah Papali'i, Leivaha Pulu, Nathaniel Roache, Selestino Radutaumada
Ben Francis is a Newshub digital sports producer.