As he soared high into the Melbourne night sky last Friday the countless hours of physical and mental training spent preparing for his match-winning moment ensured boom Storm winger Will Warbrick was completely and fully committed.
Lessons learned during a single season playing Australian rules football in his native New Zealand, more experiences playing rugby sevens for his country, then all that time on the training paddocks with fellow Storm winger Xavier Coates had prepared him.
Warbrick, who is in the running to be the NRL’s rookie of the year after a stunning debut season, saw Cameron Munster’s cross-field kick in the final minute of their do-or-die semi-final with the Roosters coming his way.
Knowing a try would win the game, Warbrick, timed his run, jumped over the top of Roosters winger Junior Pauga and with arms stretched as Coates had taught him, plucked the ball out of the air, landed, outstretched his arms, and scored the winning four-pointer.
In the days after his phone “blew up” and Warbrick revealed the intense level of training he’s put in with Coates, arguably the best exponent of the skill in the NRL, to “own” his magic moment.
“Oh Xavier yeah, he he‘s got it on lock man like the detail he speaks about it and even the approach before he even jumps you know, the way he shortens his feet and the leap,” Warbrick said this week.
“Even the mindset talks about getting up and owning it and being confident, being aggressive, you know, and trying to own the ball.
“So that’s something I’ve probably worked on my side of things I’ve mentally I’ve probably gone up and haven’t really fully committed to the catch. So that’s been something that I’ve tried to improve in the last couple of months and been trying to get the reps in.
“This is no better coach than Xav, I guess.”
Warbrick isn’t the first Storm winger to have dabbled in Aussie rules in New Zealand before coming to Melbourne. Matt Duffie, now working at the club in development, did the same thing and was another good exponent of aerial work in his 62 Storm games, which yielded 37 tries.
Kicking was an issue for Warbrick when he played, but he was a good “catcher” and has found taking the negative thoughts out of making a mistake was important as perfecting the art of taking the ball in his hands, at it’s highest point.
“Many people might be more comfortable catching on the chest and you see in the AFL, you catch it above your head, It‘s a lot harder, You got to have stronger hands, you got to be more confident and more capable,” he said.
“And I’ve definitely worked on that specific aspect of the catches, you know, jumping up high as I can and, and trying to get my arms outreach towards the ball.
“Definitely sometimes the fear of knocking on can make you a bit more hesitant and when you‘re hesitating up there, then you’re more likely you’re going to drop it or knock it on or make an error.
“So I think our coaches do a good job of making us back ourselves and try to own it and don’t have that fear of dropping it and who, like they say they’d much rather us go up and compete and try and make a contest of it.”
It is also becoming a point of difference for his game, which could yet be an advantage against the more diminutive Penrith wingers in Friday’s preliminary final showdown.
“There‘s still there’s a lot of different variables you know, I think Panthers do a good job, I want to say protecting the wingers but like helping them in that way,” he said.
“ I mean, you might look at the winger, like say I’ve played against (Sunia) Turuva, but sometimes they have (Stephen) Crighton who’s a big he’s a big athletic body who’s also good in the air.
“We’d like to think that we’ve got an advantage there but Panthers are a good side man and they get good at you know, trying to minimise flaws in the game. So we’ll see what happens the game day.”
Originally published as Will Warbrick’s magic finals moment was hundreds of hours in the making