Is 2024 "Our Year?"
Happy New Year readers, let's hope 2024 brings you sporting joy and fulfillment as fans as I present thoughts on how this year will behold...
by Cam Schuster I 4th January 2024
If you’re travelling along the North-Western Motorway headed toward Auckland City, just 700 metres past the Patiki Road off ramp, to your right, slapped onto the side of the Autex Industries building you will see a giant 3-story mural of Shaun Johnson flanked by teammates Tohu, Adin, Jazz and Watene alongside the phrase familiar to die easy Wahs fans “our year.”
There is a deliberate vagueness about the phrase. What is “our.” Is it making Finals Footy? Minor Premieres? Playing in the Grand Final? Or is it (obviously) winning the Grand Final and owning the Provan-Summons Trophy? Ok, the latter is not achieved, ‘our’ would also be referring to the team and community they represent. What is mine is yours.
What “year” The answer lies in the buildup to a new NRL season. This year, next year and every other year. Ask a Warriors fan, it doesn't matter, every year is their year until it's not, then recycle. Oh the beauty.
The ‘Our Year’ and ‘Up the Wahs’ phrases are symbolic of the New Zealand Warriors and while I don't support I can't help but think and wonder if this new year 2024 will belong to any one of my teams. So, Happy New Year readers, let's hope 2024 brings you sporting joy and fulfilment as fans as I present thoughts on how this year will be for the Blues, Manly SeaEagles, Miami Heat and Pittsburgh Steelers. Let's go!
With Assistant Coach Matt Canada gone and the offence still finding its feet, the Steelers have suffered setbacks this year with injuries to their starting QB Kenny Pickett (who in his sophomore year still hasn't shown he’s the guy), the failure of backup Mitch Trubisky (who is trash anyway) and the surprising light of 3rd string QB Mason Rudolph so far (he's a third string for a reason). The Steelers are 9-8 with one round remaining and they will need to beat the number one-seeded Baltimore Ravens who will likely rest their best players including season MVP front-runner QB Lamar Jackson. Also, the Dolphins must beat the Bills or the Titans beat the Jags. If the Steelers win this Sunday then I'll be a hardout Phins fan on Monday, a great excuse to support the uso Tua Tagovailoa's team. Pickett might be back from injury but Rudolph is doing so well do they mess up the chemistry? Running back Najee Harris and his backup Jaylen Warren are solid while TJ Watt and the defence have been game-winners. Will this be ‘our year’? All three of the QBs mentioned above are not elite. The Steelers will need a 10-8 record to get in the playoffs, in 2011 Eli Manning and his New York Giants were the only team to win a Super Bowl with a 7-9 season record. Anything is possible.
They say it's not how you fall but how you get back up, learn from your mistakes, and move on. In 2022 the Blues fell to the Crusaders in an embarrassing 21-7 Final. In the 2023 Semi-Final, the Blues fell again to the Crusaders in a humiliating 52-15 pumping. Nothing learned, things got worse, Rangi's gone, but maybe three times is a charm and so 2024 is “Our Year”. The Vern Cotter era brings international experience, new philosophies, and a new identity to get over the Crusader postseason hump. Maybe that's what the boys need, a clean slate and the loss of Crusaders Mo'unga, Faingaanuku, and Whitelock to overseas. No excuses. The sabbatical of Beauden Barrett means competition between Stephen Perofeta and Zarn Sullivan for 1st five, personally, it's Zarn's because Stephen is a better runner from the back. Eight youngins join the team (4 backs and 4 forwards) which I am looking forward to seeing perform. Can the Blues make it? Three times a charm. Bad news also comes in threes.
Cages or wings? Which do you prefer? Ask a bird. Ask a Sea Eagle. For the past 5 seasons, Manly’s success has been caged due to injuries to key players, but no one more key than the Turbomeister himself Tom Trbojevic. Manly must find a way to win games without him, the man averaged 11 games a season the last 5 years and with his million-dollar salary how long could they afford their injury-prone star, look at Storm shopping Papenhausen around. Brooksy is a welcome to the halves to partner DCE after the failed Josh Schuster experiment. The spine does get upgraded and can spread its wings with Brooks. The uso Jaxson Paulo joins the boys this year but I can only remember his crucial drop balls when he played for Rabbitohs. The Seibold era hasn't been great so far, you'd think he'd learn from the Broncos, he has to figure it out. Morgan Harper moving to the Eels was a good start. SeaEagles Nation chooses wings over cages, our year truly depends on Turbo playing every game, or without him Seibold to find a way. Also, a breakout year for Tolutau Koula is here. Fly SeaEagles Fly.
Love me some Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. No Homo. Heat Nation labels them Splash Brothers 2.0 for a good reason, and it's exciting to watch. When they’re on. Maybe they are the poor man's splash brothers, but when they strokin’ it, you know its butter. Right now the Miami Heat sit aaight at 4th place on the Eastern Conference table and with 49 games to go there's still plenty of time to climb. The team pretty much has been the same for a few years and that team familiarity will be valuable if they either face Sixers or Bucks in the Playoffs. This afternoon's game against the Lakers will be a good test, no Jimmy though who's out with a foot injury, looking for Splash Brothers 2.0 to deliver…. Not quite our year but very close.