A relieved Kane Evans apologised to teammates for leaving the Warriors short during two stints in the sin bin in last weekend’s 18-16 defeat of Cronulla but coach Nathan Brown has told his players they need to rise above sledging and focus on winning.
The Warriors have paid a high price for the win, with Evans, fellow prop Matt Lodge and star winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to miss Sunday's match against Canterbury after being suspended for reacting to Sharks centre Will Chambers.
Halfback Sean O’Sullivan insisted he didn’t hear any of the comments from Chambers, who is believed to have initially targeted teenager Viliami Vailea, but admitted that Evans and other Warriors players had “lost their heads”.
The Sharks scored two tries during Evans’ first stint in the sin bin for punching Chambers to take a 16-6 lead into half-time but the Warriors did not concede a point when they were again reduced to 12 men midway through the second term.
O’Sullivan said Evans had apologised after the match, but Brown was seething and gave the Warriors players a dressing down at full-time, as well as at half-time.
Evans sent to sin bin for punching
“I think Kano might have lost his head a little bit there and I am sure if he had the chance again he might like to do things a little bit differently,” O’Sullivan said. “He wears his heart on his sleeve and that’s a decision that he made at the time, in the heat of the moment.
“He was obviously apologetic, and he was stoked that we got a win so that was really the main thing after the game. We don’t want to be down to 12 players, but it is not just on Kane. As a group we came together and we got the two points, which was the main thing.
“Kane is an experienced player and he will be able to take some lessons out of what happened. I think Kano will be able to sort all of that stuff out with the coaching staff and they will be able to make some adjustments if they need to. He has been awesome before last week so he will be fine.”
A frustrated Brown told reporters after the match that he was disappointed some of his senior players had engaged with Chambers and O’Sullivan revealed he had let the team know in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t acceptable behaviour in professional sport.
“Brownie at half-time gave us a little spray just to let us know not to get involved in it because people were losing their heads,” O’Sullivan said. “The ultimate goal for us was to win a football game, it wasn’t to win a sledging match between each other.
“Brownie was pretty adamant at half-time that if you have something stuck in your head get it out because it is not helping anyone and particularly this football team.
Evans in the bin again, this time for a head slam on Chambers
“After the game he also let us know that if that was to ever happen again we just honestly need to worry about football and the 13 boys who are on the field because that is ultimately what we are here to do. We are judged on winning football games, he was very adamant and clear on that.”
The come-from-behind win has revived the Warriors' finals hopes and victory against the Bulldogs would keep them in contention for a top eight berth as the Titans play the Rabbitohs, the Raiders play the Storm, the Dragons play the Roosters and the Knights and Sharks play each other.
“We have a belief in this group that we are a very good football team and we haven’t shown it in large amounts throughout the year, but we are really focused on finishing the year strong for our fans and members back home,” O’Sullivan said.
Lodge charged for careless high tackle
It was O’Sullivan’s third consecutive match in the playmaking role for the Warriors and he and five-eighth Chanel Harris-Tavita took control after Evans was sin-binned in the second half for a head slam on Chambers.
“I don’t think they scored in the second half when we only had 12 men but we didn’t handle that period well in the first half. We conceded two tries,” O’Sullivan said.
“We took our lessons and at half-time made a couple of adjustments.
“First of all we needed to get our defence going because when you are down to 12 men you put yourself under a lot of pressure and we tried to kick the ball out and be a bit smarter with our last-play options.”
O’Sullivan has again been named in the No.7 jersey for the match against Canterbury in Redcliffe but former Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend is a chance of returning from a shoulder injury sustained in his first match after making a mid-season switch to the Warriors before joining the Cowboys in 2022.