Long-serving Warrior Jacob Lillyman admits there hasn’t been as much early season expectation on the NRL club during his time in Auckland but he’s learnt to shut out the “external noise”.
The high-profile acquisitions of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke sent hopes rocketing that the Warriors will go deep in the competition after a four-year playoff drought.
But they head into their round-two fixture in Brisbane on Friday night already with ground to make up after an upset 34-26 loss to the Wests Tigers.
“Obviously with the signings we’ve had, there’s a hell of a lot of expectation on us and there’s a lot people talking us up and putting us on that pedestal,” Lillyman said.
“But when things don’t go so well, they’re quick to rip you down. I’ve been around the game for a while now and you learn to put all that stuff to the side.”
That stuff included former Kiwis and Queensland coach Graham Lowe’s claim that the Warriors lacked a hard edge because of a “bro culture”.
It’s an assertion that mystifies Lillyman, who is into his eighth season with the club.
“To be honest, I don’t know where on earth that’s coming from and I don’t even understand what that means,” he said.
“But we’re not concerned with that external noise. We just have to focus on our preparation and our performance on the weekend.
However, there’s no denying the Warriors’ limp start against the Tigers, when they leaked five tries in the opening spell to trail 28-4, a handicap that a big fightback couldn’t overcome.
Lillyman said it was hard to pinpoint the reasons for the Warriors’ “passive” and “hesitant” first-half display, or for their poor defence.
“That’s the confusing thing,” he said.
“There’s been a massive focus throughout the pre-season on defence and obviously that’s what let us down. There has to be a big mindset shift going into this weekend.”