Kiwis likely to hear ‘Up the Wahs’ for at least another week

I started counting how many times I heard “Up the Wahs!” at Mount Smart but soon gave up, writes 1News’ Simon Mercep.

The catchcry was everywhere at the Go Media Stadium, from young and old, and male and female.

After a poor run of results in recent seasons, including a worst-ever finish last year, the Warriors side was two wins away from a spot in only its third-ever Grand Final. No one wanted to miss out.

One young man drove up from Taranaki. Why come all this way? I asked him.

“Why wouldn’t you?’ he replied, incredulous that I should need to ask.

A young woman came down from Whangarei. She sensed something special. “You couldn’t get a better-bonded team this year. They are on!”

Another young man pinpointed the team’s resiliency. “They just don’t give up this year, and something’s clicked.”

The match was sold out, with more than 26 thousand fans packing the stadium and many standing at ground level, close to the action, soaking it up.

One of them was Charlie, a long-time supporter with a particular claim to fame. He has a lot of Warriors jerseys. And I mean a lot.

“I got three hundred and sixty at the moment. And counting,” he said., “Don’t know what to say. It’s a sickness, really,” he added with a grin.

Perhaps the highest profile is the man with the painted face, dubbed The Mt Smart Joker. “I met a man today who has been a Warriors fan since ’95,” he said, adding that after all that time watching the Warriors on television, he was finally at the ground for the first time.

“I said to him, We’ve been waiting for you. Welcome home!”

I asked Sir Peter Leitch, perhaps the most famous dedicated Warriors supporter, about the importance of the game.

“It means a lot. Because we’re part of a family.”

And that sense of family was impossible to miss. After the game, a whopping 40 to 10 victory for the home team, several players brought their young children onto the field. Others posed for selfies with fans. Flying winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak stood to accept a haka from supporters in the stand.

“I love you,” he said. “Thanks for coming. The whole year.”

As for that “Up the Wahs” catchcry, I asked Sir Peter Leitch about its origins.

“I wouldn’t have a clue,” he said. “It took me a while to come around to it, because I’m a “let’s go warriors” man. But you know, you can’t swim against the tide.”

For now, the tide is flowing strongly with the Warriors and its dedicated band of supporters. A stern test awaits them in Brisbane next week against the Broncos. But even if they fall at that hurdle, 2023 will still have been a stellar season.

Better than many which preceded it. And that will surely bring the fans back to Mt Smart again next year.

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