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New Zealand Warriors

The New Zealand Warriors (formerly the Auckland Warriors) are a professional rugby league team based in Auckland, New Zealand. They compete in the National Rugby League premiership which is the Southern Hemisphere's elite rugby league championship

The Warriors were founded in 1995 as 'Auckland' as part of the Australian Rugby League's expansion. As a result of the Super League war they left the ARL to compete in the Super League competition in 1997 before joining the newly-formed NRL the following year. The Warriors made it to the 2002 Grand Final but have yet to win a premiership. They are based at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.

History

The History of the Bid

Rugby league was largely centred around Auckland ever since the New Zealand Rugby League was founded in 1909. Auckland produced the bulk of the international squad for many years, and most of these players headed to either Australia or Great Britain to play.

The Auckland representative side was consistently providing top opposition to touring sides. An Auckland team was admitted into the mid-week ARL Amco Cup competition in 1978. In their first year they made the semi-finals, and were defeated by the overall competition winners, Eastern Suburbs. They remained into the competition until the early 1980s. In 1987, an Auckland side toured Great Britain and claimed wins over powerhouse clubs Leeds and Wigan.

In 1988, serious investigation into an Auckland team entering the New South Wales Rugby League premiership commenced, encouraged mainly by the Mt Albert club. On 17 May 1992, the announcement stating an Auckland-based team's entry into the Australian Rugby League competition, the Winfield Cup in 1995, was made. This followed very good turnouts to a number of NSWRL club games played in Auckland. The new team was to be called the Auckland Warriors and run by the Auckland Rugby League organisation. The original colours selected were blue, white, red and green. Blue and white are recognised as the colours of Auckland, while red and green were the colours of the Warriors' original sponsor, DB Bitter.

1995 - The First Season

Position Pld Won Drew Lost Bye Points For Points Against Points Differential
10th (of 20) 22 13 0 9 - 538 501 +37

The coach of the new team would be former Parramatta and Wigan coach John Monie. A number of fading stars were signed, such as Greg Alexander and Andy Platt. Captain Dean Bell was one of the few signings who performed regularly. Former Rugby union players such as John Kirwan and Marc Ellis were brought in later years.

The Warriors first year in the Australian Rugby League was 1995. Their debut match was against the Brisbane Broncos on 10 March 1995 in front of 30,000 people at a newly refurbished Mt Smart Stadium. The Warriors led 22-10 at one point in the second half of the match, however the Broncos finished far stronger and defeated the new club 25-22.

The Warriors were deducted two competition points for an interchange error. In a match against Western Suburbs, the Warriors used five interchange players instead of the allowed four. The Warriors won the match comfortably, 46-12. This error had disasterous consequences for the club, as they utimately missed the finals by two competition points. The season saw the debut of future star, Stacey Jones, who scored a try on debut in a 40-4 rout of Parramatta in Sydney. The biggest issue with the season was the lack of consistency that plagues the Warriors even today, despite a six match winning streak late in the season. It was observed that when the Warriors weren't winning by 20 points they were losing by 20 points.

1996

Position Pld Won Drew Lost Bye Points For Points Against Points Differential
11th (of 20) 21 10 0 11 - 412 427 -15

The Australian Rugby League season 1996 could have been regarded as a better one for the Warriors. The Warriors found themselves siding with the Super League during the Super League War when the New Zealand Rugby League signed up to the rebel competition. They claimed their first 'victory' over the Broncos in round one of the competition that year, after all Super League clubs agreed to boycott the first round of the competition in protest. The Warriors won the two points when they travelled to Brisbane with a squad of players that were unsigned to Super League, forcing the Broncos to forfeit the match.

With four rounds remaining the Warriors were in sixth place in the competition, seemingly headed for a finals berth. They proceeded to lose all four matches to tumble out of the finals. The only positives were that young New Zealand talents Stacey Jones and Joe Vagana had superb seasons.

Super League - 1997

Position Pld Won Drew Lost Bye Points For Points Against Points Differential
7th (of 10) 18 7 0 11 - 332 406 -74

The Warriors spent 1997 in the breakaway Super League Telstra Cup competition. Despite the reduced number of teams, they failed to make an impression on the competition. Monie was replaced by Frank Endacott as coach midway through the 1997 season. The only positive was the teams performance in the World Club Challenge. The Warriors hammered United Kingdom powerhouses Wigan and St Helens, and comfortably handled Warrington. The Warriors were knocked out in the Semi Finals by eventual winners Brisbane, going down 16-22.

1998

Position Pld Won Drew Lost Bye Points For Points Against Points Differential
15th (of 20) 24 9 0 15 - 417 518 -101

The first season of the reformed competition was a year that saw few highlights for the club. It was readily apparent that the club needed a new approach and attitude. Fortunately for them, they were in a better position than the other two clubs that joined the competition in 1995.

The Tainui Era - 1999

Position Pld Won Drew Lost Bye Points For Points Against Points Differential
11th (of 17) 24 10 0 14 - 538 498 +40

Former Kiwi Mark Graham took over as coach in 1999. The club was sold off to a consortuim that included ex-Kiwi coach Graeme Lowe and the Tainui tribe. The club again disappointed on field, but a mid season ultimatum saw a strong finish to the season, with the side winning five of their last six games. The signs appeared promising for the new millennium.

Financial Collapse and Reinvention - 2000

Position Pld Won Drew Lost Bye Points For Points Against Points Differential
13th (of 14) 24 8 2 16 - 426 662 -236

In National Rugby League season 2000 the Warriors could only finish second last. This season included the Warriors' largest ever loss, 0-54 to the Dragons in Wollongong. Alarmingly, the problems off-field overshadowed the on-field problems. The majority shareholders were under intense financial pressure, and the club's future was looking bleak at best. The key assets of the club were purchased by business tycoon Eric Watson. This did not include player contracts, and many players were released and had to fight to get the money they had been promised. Ultimately only 10 players from the 2000 season were retained.

The club was re-branded as the New Zealand Warriors, with new colours of black and grey - resembling the national sporting colours. New coach Daniel Anderson focused on signing unknown New Zealand talent. There were only six Australians in the 2001 squad, and only three foundation players - Monty Betham, Stacey Jones and Logan Swann.

First Finals Series - 2001

Position Pld Won Drew Lost Bye Points For Points Against Points Differential
8th (of 14) 26 12 2 12 - 638 629 +9

In a season where the rebranded New Zealand Warriors were tipped to finish in second-last place beind the North Queensland Cowboys, the team surprised all, qualifying for their first ever finals appearance in the National Rugby League season 2001.

The Warriors were involved in Round 8 in one of the biggest near-comebacks in the history of the NRL. Down 24-8 to the Bulldogs with under six minutes remaining, the Warriors rattled off three tries in as many sets, only failing to win the match as ironically Stacey Jones missed his easiest kick of the night in the final minute.

After a mid season struggle, the Warriors upset the runaway minor premiers Parramatta 29-18 at home, in what was a highlight match.

Then, with their season on the line, the team won four matches in a row, starting with impressive 34-8, 30-0, and 14-8 home victories over fellow finals-bound teams the Bulldogs, Sharks and Roosters. The Warriors also scored 24 unanswered points in the final quarter to beat the Panthers 48-32. Their first finals appearance was sealed with a bruising 24-24 draw with the Storm at Colonial Stadium (now Telstra Dome), but the effects of this bruising match was seen a week later, as the Warriors were beaten by 30-18 at home by the Cowboys, a win that saw the North Queenslanders avoiding the wooden spoon.

On a hiding to nothing heading into their first ever finals appearnace, they were hammered by the Minor Premiers, the Parramatta Eels 56-12. The loss was at the time the largest in finals series history, but at last things seemed to be going in the right direction at the Warriors.

Minor Premiership and Grand Final - 2002

Position Pld Won Drew Lost Bye Points For Points Against Points Differential
1st (of 15) 24 17 0 7 2 688 454 +234

The Warriors reached their zenith to date in the National Rugby League season 2002. They won the Minor Premiership, finishing in first place at the conclusion of the regular season after the Bulldogs lost 37 competition points late in the season due to severe salary cap breaches. The club played what stands as the first finals match to have been held outside Australia at Mt Smart Stadium in the first week of the Finals Series. The Warriors would defeat their bogey side Canberra 36-20 after surviving an early scare.

For the Preliminary Final against the Sharks at Telstra Stadium the Warriors' sponsors, such as Vodafone New Zealand and Eric Watson, purchased 15,000 tickets and gave them away for free to anyone with a New Zealand passport. Reportedly, in the 45,000 crowd there were more Warriors supporters than Sharks supporters - astonishing considering the Sharks are a Sydney based club. The Warriors went on to win 16-10 with John Carlaw scoring a famous try after latching onto a pinpoint Stacey Jones grubber-kick.

The Grand Final against the Sydney Roosters was a tight match for the first hour. The Warriors trailed 2-6 at half time, but took a lead just after halftime when Jones scored a great grand final try - as he left defenders sprawling in his wake on a 40 metre run to the try line. The Roosters ran away with the match in the final 20 minutes after captain Brad Fittler was involved in a head clash with Warriors prop Richard Villasanti. The final score was an unflattering 8-30.

Top Eight Again - 2003

Position Pld Won Drew Lost Bye Points For Points Against Points Differential
6th (of 15) 24 15 0 9 2 545 510 +35

2003 was another quite successful year for the Warriors.

After blowing an early 16-0 lead to lose 26-36 to the Newcastle Knights in Round 1, the Warriors embarked on a five-match winning streak to announce themselves as contenders for the season. However, the Warriors then struggled through the middle-stages of the season, squandering a 26-12 lead with eight minutes remaining to lose to the Parramatta Eels dramatically 28-26 at Parramaata Stadium. There was also an insipid 10-30 loss in Townsville to the North Queensland. They played their first ever extra time match, defeating South Sydney 31-30, recovering from a 6-24 deficit.

On the back of inspired play by prop Richard Vilisanti, the Warriors secured their playoff spot, ultimately finishing sixth on points differential, a dangerous position to finish, as the 6th placed finishers had been eliminated after the first week of the playoffs in the past three seasons.

Their first finals match was against the Bulldogs at the Sydney Showground. The Warriors turned on one of their finest performances ever, stunning the Bulldogs early to lead 16-4 at halftime, and after a Bulldogs comeback tied the scores at 16-all, scoring five tries in 16 minutes to blow the Bulldogs away, eventually winning 48-22. Winger Francis Meli scored five tries, a finals record. This prompted Graham Lowe, a known critic of the Warriors to say that the Warriors would win the premiership. The next week a Stacey Jones field-goal in the dying minutes got the Warriors past a gallant Canberra Raiders 17-16. They however lost in the Preliminary Final to the Minor Premiers and eventual Premiers Penrith Panthers, 20-28. It was a disappointing loss for the Warriors, who did not lead at any point of the match, and blew their chance early in the second-half to take their first lead, when Henry Fa'afili lost the ball with the line wide open.

The Worst Year Ever - 2004

Position Pld Won Drew Lost Bye Points For Points Against Points Differential
14th (of 15) 24 6 0 18 2 427 693 -266

Before the National Rugby League season 2004 started, there were predictions of the Warriors having a highly successful season. These were proved wrong, as the Warriors managed to only win six games to finish equal last, only escaping the wooden spoon by having a superior points differential to South Sydney. Coach Daniel Anderson resigned mid-season after an embarrassing 52 point loss to the Sydney Roosters. His assistant Tony Kemp was given the head coach position, and in his first game in charge the Warriors recorded an emotional 20-14 win over Canberra. A week later, the Warriors' first match in Christchurch since 1996 was a flop, as the Warriors were destroyed by the Wests Tigers 4-50. The season finished with an embarrassing six game losing streak.

The management looked to rescue a poor year with some high profile signings. Bulldogs captain Steve Price was signed, as was Kiwis captain Ruben Wiki, Cowboys half Nathan Fien and Roosters winger Todd Byrne.

The Rebuilding Begins - 2005

Position Pld Won Drew Lost Bye Points For Points Against Points Differential
11th (of 15) 24 10 0 14 2 515 523 -13

2005 was an improvement over the horror scenes of 2004. The team remained competitive for all of their matches, and their largest loss was only 18 points. The team had a good chance to make the finals, however a four match losing streak late in the season removed those chances. The season was tinged with sadness, as it was announced it would be star halfback Stacey Jones' last season with the club before he would join French Super League club, Les Catalans. His last match for the team against Manly at Brookvale Oval was a fine way for him to sign off with the club as he scored the match-winning try with three minutes to go in a 22-20 victory.

At the end of the season the structure of the team was reviewed. CEO Mick Watson resigned and was replaced by Wayne Scurrah. Tony Kemp was sacked as coach and his assistant Ivan Cleary replaced him as head coach.

The Salary Cap Drama - 2006

Position Pld Won Drew Lost Bye Points For Points Against Points Differential
10th (of 15) 24 12 0 12 2 552 463 +89

National Rugby League season 2006 got off to a bad start for the club. In February, the Warriors were found to have committed major breaches of the salary cap in 2005. This followed the high profile signings of Steve Price and Ruben Wiki. On 27 February the NRL announced the club would be deducted four competition points and the club would also be fined AU$430,000.

Even before the penalty the Warriors were expected to struggle and were being picked as wooden spooners in some quarters. With the four point deduction, the Warriors won their first NRL game away from Auckland, with a 26-10 victory over the reigning premiers, the Wests Tigers, at Jade Stadium in Christchurch.

On 25 June the Warriors recorded their largest ever win, defeating South Sydney 66-0 at Telstra Stadium, as part of a four-match winning streak that claimed the scalps of the Sydney Roosters, Newcastle Knights, and also the Penrith Panthers. This streak was ended in a 18-22 golden-point loss to the Bulldogs, in a game where the Warriors surrendered a early 16-0 lead.

The Warriors finished the season on a positive note leaving room for optimism for 2007 and beyond. They caused arguably the upset of the season, defeating the Minor Premiers Melbourne 24-20 at Olympic Park Stadium in Melbourne, preventing the Storm from going the full regular season unbeaten at home.

Impressively, it took the Warriors 24 weeks to be completely out of finals contention. The Warriors finished winning eight of their final twelve games, including a 42-16 thrashing of the Roosters in Round 25, which included four tries by Jerome Ropati. Had the Warriors not suffered the four-point deduction, they would have finished in eighth place on the ladder, and hence would have taken part in the finals series. As it was, they finished tenth on the ladder.

There were a number of revelations in the squad. Unheralded halfback Grant Rovelli was a standout performer. Winger Patrick Ah Van has cemented a first grade spot and impressed many with his performances, while George Gatis and Nathan Fien were fine performers at hooker, and centre Simon Mannering has been one of the Warriors most impressive backs.

Return to the Finals - 2007

Position Pld Won Drew Lost Bye Points For Points Against Points Differential
4th (of 16) 24 13 1 10 1 593 434 +159

The Warriors completed their pre-season with two wins from three games, defeating the Auckland Lions 64-4, losing to the North Queensland Cowboys 32-14 and defeating the Canterbury Bulldogs 36-6.

The Warriors finished the 2007 season in fourth place. The season began with a 34-18 victory over Parramatta at Mt Smart Stadium. The following week the side created history by winning their first two games of the season with a 24-14 victory over premiers, the Brisbane Broncos - the first time they have ever won their opening two games of the season.

After a good start which saw the team sitting in fourth place with a 4-2 win-loss record, the team hit a period of indifferent form, falling into a six match losing streak following a last minute win over South Sydney. The team returned to form, defeating Cronulla 12-2 in wild weather at Toyota Park. Following that victory the side won 9 out of 12 games, with one draw. The Warriors clinched a playoff spot with a 36-14 win over an understrength Manly side, and claimed a home final the following week, defeating the Penrith Panthers 24-20 at CUA Stadium in Round 25.

The Warriors, by virtue of finishing the regular season in fourth place, won the right to host one of the finals matches in the first week of the playoffs. However, the Warriors narrowly went down to the Parramatta Eels 12-10 at Mount Smart Stadium, and their season ended with an awful 12-49 loss to the Cowboys in Townsville.

On 30 May the Warriors signed Australian Kangaroos' centre, Brent Tate from 2008 to 2010 in what was described as a "major coup" for the New Zealand club.

Second-Half Revival - 2008

Position Pld Won Drew Lost Bye Points For Points Against Points Differential
8th (of 16) 24 13 0 11 2 502 567 -65

The 2008 season did not start as brightly for the club, losing Wade McKinnon for much of the year during a pre-season loss to Newcastle, and losing captain Steve Price for ten weeks, as well as injuries to other key players Manu Vatuvei, Jerome Ropati and Michael Witt. The team remained in contention for much of the season, however often performed very poorly away from Mt Smart Stadium, and suffered their first loss to South Sydney (28-35) since 1999, and went on to lose to the Rabbitohs again later in the season (16-18). Despite poor results away, strong home form and a now common revival in the second half of the season saw the Warriors make the top eight for the second season running, incredibly despite spending only three weeks in the top eight all season. A top-eight berth was secured in the last game of the season, when the Warriors defeated the Parramatta Eels 28-6 at Parramatta Stadium, marking the first time since 1995 that the Warriors had won away to Parramatta.

With nothing to lose in the first week of the finals, the Warriors caused arguably the greatest finals upset ever, and arguably greatest victory in the history of the club, defeating Melbourne 18-15 at Olympic Park; in doing so, they became the first 8th placed team to beat the minor premiers, with Michael Witt scoring two minutes from fulltime to clinch the win. Witt taunted Melbourne captain, Cameron Smith, before placing the ball for the historic victory.

In week two of the playoffs, the Warriors came from behind to defeat the Sydney Roosters 30-13 at Mt. Smart Stadium. The Roosters led 13-6 at halftime before a second-half comeback saw the Warriors pile on twenty-four unanswered points to earn the Warriors a place in the preliminary finals. This was the first time since 2003 that the Warriors have reached the grand final qualifier, and third overall in 14 seasons. They however went down heavily to an inspired Manly Sea Eagles 32-6.

2008 Squad

See Also: List of New Zealand Warriors players & List of New Zealand Warriors representatives
2008 Squad Backs
Patrick Ah Van
Michael Crockett
Aidan Kirk
Simon Mannering
Wade McKinnon
Malo Solomona
Brent Tate / Manu Vatuvei
Ryan Shortland

Halves Isaac John
Daniel O'Regan
Jerome Ropati
Grant Rovelli
Michael Witt

Forwards Leeson Ah Mau
/ Sonny Fai
Roman Hifo
Scott Jones
/ Ben Matulino
Wairangi Koopu
Epalahame Lauaki
Michael Luck
Wayne McDade
Russell Packer
Steve Price (Captain)
Sam Rapira
Ian Henderson
Logan Swann
Evarn Tuimavave
Ruben Wiki (Vice-Captain)

Utilities
Nathan Fien
Lance Hohaia
Constantine Mika

2009 Losses

Ruben Wiki
Wairangi Koopu
Logan Swann
Michael Crockett
Ryan Shortland

Signings

Liam Foran (until 2009)

Jacob Lillyman (until 2010)
Denan Kemp (until 2010)
Joel Moon (until 2011)

Contract Extensions

Sam Rapira (until 2012)
Manu Vatuvei (until 2011)
Aidan Kirk (until 2009, with option for 2010)
Steve Price (until 2009)
Wade McKinnon (until 2011)
Russell Packer (until 2012)
Ben Matulino (until 2010)
Daniel O'Regan (until 2009)
Mataupu Poching (until 2010)

Captains

Years Captain
1995 Dean Bell
1996 Greg Alexander
1997–1999 Matthew Ridge
2000 John Simon
2001–2002 Kevin Campion/Stacey Jones
2001–2003 Stacey Jones
2004 Monty Betham
2005-present Steve Price

Coaches

-> -> ->
Coach Tenure Matches Won Drawn Lost Winning Percentage
John Monie 1995-1997 (sacked mid-season) 52 26 0 26 50.00%
Frank Endacott 1997-1998 33 13 0 20
Mark Graham 1999-2000 50 18 2 30
Daniel Anderson 2001-2004 (resigned mid-season) 92 51 2 39
Tony Kemp 2004-2005 37 13 0 24 35.14%
Ivan Cleary 2006-present 55 28 1 26 50.91%

Jerseys

Individual Records

1995-2008

Most Games

-> -> ->
Games Player
238 Stacey Jones
194* Logan Swann
170 Awen Guttenbiel
159 Wairangi Koopu
132 Jerry Seuseu

Most Tries

-> -> ->
Tries Player
75 Stacey Jones
60 Francis Meli
57 Clinton Toopi
45 Manu Vatuvei
44 Sean Hoppe

Most Tries in a Season

-> ->
Tries Player Season
23 Francis Meli 2003
19 Sean Hoppe 1995
18 Clinton Toopi 2002
16* Manu Vatuvei 2008

Most Points

-> -> -> ->
Points Player
654 Stacey Jones
439 Ivan Cleary
291 Michael Witt
283 Gene Ngamu
271 Lance Hohaia
266 Tony Martin

Most Points in a Season

-> -> -> ->
Points Player Season
242 Ivan Cleary 2002
173 Ivan Cleary 2001
160 Tony Martin 2006
153 Michael Witt 2007
147 Stacey Jones 2005
138 Michael Witt 2008

Most Points in a Match

-> -> -> ->
Points Player Details
28 Ivan Cleary 1 try, 12 goals vs Northern Eagles, 2002 (Won 68-10)
28 Gene Ngamu
22 Tony Martin
22 Tony Martin
20 Ivan Cleary
20 Francis Meli 5 tries vs Canterbury Bulldogs, 2003 (Won 48-22)
20 Michael Witt 2 tries, 6 goals vs Penrith Panthers, 2007 (Won 54-14)

Club Records

1995-2008

Biggest Wins

Margin Score Opponent Venue Year
66 66-0 South Sydney Rabbitohs Sydney Football Stadium 2006
58 68-10 Northern Eagles Mt Smart Stadium 2002
46 52-6 North Queensland Cowboys Mt Smart Stadium 1996

Biggest Losses

Margin Score Opponent Venue Year
54 0-54 St. George Illawarra Dragons WIN Stadium 2000
52 6-58 Sydney Roosters Sydney Football Stadium 2004
46 10-56 Melbourne Storm Olympic Park Stadium 2000
46 6-52 Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Brookvale Oval 2008

Most Consecutive Wins

Most Consecutive Losses

Biggest Comeback

Recovered from a 20-point deficit.

  • Trailed Newcastle 20-0 after 39 minutes to win 30-26 at EnergyAustralia Stadium on 17 April 2005

Worst Collapse

Surrendered a 16-point lead (twice).

  • Led Newcastle 16-0 after 34 minutes to lose 36-26 at Mt Smart Stadium on 16 March 2003
  • Led Canterbury 16-0 after 21 minutes to lose 22-18 (in extra-time) at ANZ Stadium on 9 July 2006

Golden Point Record

Played 5: Won 1, Lost 3, Drawn 1

All Time Premiership Record

Games Won Lost Drawn Win Percentage Points For Points Against Points Differential
341 161 175 5 47.21% 7,362 7,585 -223

See also

External links

Notes

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