The Warriors

There’s a very small patch of dirt in the world map of genres called Comedy-Drama.

Like Lithuania in a Europe of binge TV offerings, it occupies a diminutive kingdom where the comedy isn’t looking for knockout punchlines and the drama doesn’t take itself all that seriously. The latest to take out citizenship is ABC’s The Warriors.

It centres around four young players in a hapless AFL team, three of whom are brand new recruits and one as a jaded young captain.

As the #1 draft pick, Maki Birrawuy (Gordon Churchill) represents hope for the club. All eyes are on the talented Indigenous player who has been plucked from the bush for an elite sports career alongside new recruits cocky Zane Phillips (Nelson Baker) and class-clown Scottie Watson (Ben Knight). The three share house with bad boy captain Doc Shepherd (Reece Milne) who is seemingly more interested in the rock-star trapping of sports stardom than hard-work.

Shepherd also flirts continuously with the club’s PR Deb Van Exel (Lisa McCune), who deploys her assets in a workplace of wolf-whistles in order to get the outcomes she needs. Ruling the roost is boorish club president Bill Shepherd (John Howard), also Doc’s father, aided by Coach Mark ‘Spinner’ Spinotti (Vince Colosimo) desperate for one more win.

The opening episode sees Maki and his pals about to be presented to the press for the first time. But for rookies with no media experience, being put in the spotlight is a tall order.

“I want to see you on the front page,” barks Bill Shepherd, whilst Deb Van Exel warns, “I’m the one who saves your arse when a nasty story’s printed. Even if it’s true.”

For Maki, trying to memorise the perfect soundbites for a press conference does not come easy with even the voice of experience, despite captain Doc Shepherd offering his best advice.

“Oh I almost forgot. You’ve got the utmost respect for women,” he quips.

When all Maki wants to do is play, he is distracted by peer group misbehaviour involving everything from drugs and sex to gags about w*nking protocol in the share house…. sock on the door, anyone?

Yet it all culminates on the day of the press conference when the boys get lost in the bowels of the MCG, left to wander around the AFL museum and gaze towards their own future.

Turning a light onto sport star misbehaviour is a good idea (if previously tackled by shows such as The Cut), although headlines with Ben Cousins suggest truth is more brutal than fiction. The Warriors brings an indigenous element to the mix with newcomer Gordon Churchill holding his own against more trained and seasoned performers.

At just thirty minutes a week the cast are quick to get to the point with their characters’ needs, with little time for the drama to breathe. There were moments in the premiere episode, particularly those at the MCG, that would also not be out of place in Kid’s TV -not that there’s anything wrong with that. Casting The Club‘s own John Howard is a lovely nod to past glories but I admit to tiring of him as the obnoxious figure in authority -please find a character with vulnerability?

The biggest challenge for the show, aside from winning over viewers in NRL heartlands, may be in the expectations of viewers either wanting more gags or more jeopardy. Hence the reason this is being branded a Comedy-Drama, thankfully with its heart in the right place.

Besides, there’s nothing so wrong with a visit to Lithuania every once in a while.

The Warriors premieres 9:30pm Wednesday on ABC.


  1. I did like it but I couldn’t tell whether it comedy or drama yet. Only time will tell but I did expect a better timeslot for this especially if they want a second series out of it

  2. I’m baffled as to why this is being marketed as comedy (or comedy-drama). It wasn’t in any way funny. The characters aren’t funny, nor is the situation they are in. The thinness of the storyline turns it into a kids’ show, but the adult material means it’s not suitable for kids. It falls into the trap of mistaking random acts of crudeness for comedy.

  3. This review, like the review in the Guardian, is patronising in it’s attempt to soften the glaring deficiencies in this show. The characters are two-dimensional archetypes, the acting of the inexperienced leads is woeful, and the stakes were so low in the pilot episode as to be laughable. The comparison to Kid’s TV is actually unfair to Kid’s shows like Dance Academy which has more drama, complexity and nuanced performance. I think trying to support Australian shows by giving generous reviews actually does the industry a disservice and makes viewers think twice about giving Australian shows a chance in future. (I realise that my view is subjective, of course, so feel free to disregard.)

    • I don’t have any problem with you disagreeing with the review, but the plot elements of the MCG scenes are very similar to those in kid’s TV. Characters isolated from authority, mischief, a race against time, lessons learned about history that also educate the audience. Dance Academy, which I agree was lovely and have said so in the past, also adhered to kid’s genre storytelling including some I’ve just described.

      • I totally agree with you: those scenes were very much like kid’s TV. The MCG Hall of Fame segment was bafflingly instructive and dull. I was just making the point that a show like Dance Academy, while adhering to kid’s genre storytelling, was strangely more complex, nuanced and interesting than The Warriors. My broader point was that we shouldn’t handle poor shows like The Warriors with kid gloves. Otherwise, the ABC will continue to pump out under-developed, badly scripted shows like this (while dumping quality hits like Dr Blake).

  4. The ABC has been here before, in the 1970s they had a comedy about AFL football called And the Big Men Fly. Of course everybody north of the Murray River couldn’t stand it. Also I’m surprised at the title which also seems Melbourne and AFL centric. The Warriors are a real-life NRL team representing New Zealand.

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