Mitch Barnett reflects on narrow defeat and future

Publish Date
Tuesday, 9 July 2024, 3:19PM

By Michael Burgess

As Mitch Barnett surveyed the scene in the Warriors dressing room, he had a simple message for the players.

Barnett, who was captain in the absence of the injured Tohu Harris, could sense the utter dejection among the squad, after the 13-12 golden-point loss to the Bulldogs on Saturday. They came desperately close to what would have been one of the most memorable wins in club history, as they defied a shocking injury toll but were ultimately denied by Matt Burton’s 88th-minute field goal.

In the circumstances – with their top-eight hopes receding – it was one of the toughest defeats in the Andrew Webster era. They had to deal with the loss of Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (calf), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (HIA) and Marcelo Montoya (groin) to injury – decimating their backline – but still almost found a way against the odds, with a supreme physical effort, against a Bulldogs team that were unbeaten at home in 2024.

Barnett hopes it can be a springboard for success after next week’s bye, as the Warriors get closer to make-or-break territory.

“I’m usually a negative sort of person but after that I was so proud of them,” Barnett told the Herald. “Everyone had their heads down; I said ‘Get your heads up’. [I told them] if we show that energy and that attitude towards training then results will turn in our favour. We got a great response there, we are not happy with losing, it’s okay to be disappointed but we just need to stay in the fight and it will turn.”

If 2023 was defined by the close wins – as the Warriors had a happy knack of edging the tight contests – this season has been the opposite, as they have been on the wrong side of several narrow scorelines. Saturday’s game was probably the worst yet, given the effort expended and is the kind that can knock the stuffing out of a team, even if next week’s bye with provide some short-term physical relief.

Barnett remains hopeful.

“Most definitely – we can recover”,” he said. “That is my main message; driving the energy day in, day out. We have got to recover well mentally and physically and if we do that, we can get a response... [after] the bye. There is a fair bit of time to play and a tight ladder.”

In a brutal contest, Barnett was a standout again. On the field for almost the entire match, the 30-year-old reeled off 225 metres from 24 runs – including 89 metres post contact, along with a staggering 54 tackles.

Most of the forwards went well – more than matching the Bulldogs pack – but the Warriors paid a heavy price for poor execution, lacking structure and poise when opportunities presented.

“Decision-making at crucial stages [hurt us],” said Barnett. “Not just in extra time, there was some early on there. We were in a real grind and we needed a bit more shape and direction.”

The injuries were a factor, sending Dylan Walker and Kurt Capewell into the backline, along with exciting debutant second-rower Leka Halasima, while Adam Pompey shifted to the wing and Tuivasa-Sheck to the back.

“It was confusing,” admitted Barnett. “I’m not giving us an out but we were so clunky there in the important stages but it was just because we had so many people in different spots. We just made some poor decisions at crucial stages and that is what hurt us in the end.”

But the Warriors still had chances, especially late on. The excellent Halasima was held up over the line after a slashing burst, while Marata Niukore was also denied by last-ditch defending. Chanel Harris-Tavita had two field goal attempts from handy positions in golden point, while the Bunker ignored a blatant late shot on Te Maire Martin as he tried to set up for another shot.

“We were centimetres off scoring a try, to basically win the game,” admitted Barnett. “Our field goal scraped the outside of the uprights, on another day we get one. If we learn from this, will be a lot better side for it.”

Barnett is in career-best form, riding a wave that has seen him included in the last two New South Wales Origin squads. He has enjoyed everything about the experience, even if he is yet to take the field.

“There’s a little bit of disappointment at not being in the 17 but the experience has been awesome,” said Barnett. “It’s going to be a cracker up at Suncorp [for game three].”

New South Wales coach has named his side for the decider with Barnett in the 17 and is expected to make his Origin debut when the two sides meet in Brisbane.

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission

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