The Warriors and Roosters have played in a grand final, a sudden-death semi and some of the great regular-season clashes of the new millennium.
But in the lead-up to Saturday’s showdown, Flashback Friday delves back a little further, reliving an explosive opening-round encounter from 1999.
The Brad Fittler-led, Phil Gould-coached Roosters were one of the premiership heavyweights – and unbackable favourites to account for an Auckland side playing its first match under new coach Mark Graham.
The Warriors displayed new-found grit, however, and led the Monday night clash 14-12 with 14 minutes left at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Tensions boiled over when Warriors interchange forward Ali Lauiti’iti ironed out Roosters counterpart Dallas Hood with an ugly high shot. Fittler immediately threw a punch at transgressor Lauiti’iti and an all-in ruckus ensued.
Once the melee calmed down, officials deliberated for two minutes before despatching Warriors back-rower Tony Tuimavave and Roosters fullback Andrew Walker to the sin-bin, then sending off Lauiti’iti and Fittler. Both pairs had been involved in separate push-and-shove incidents only seconds before the brawl.
It was the first early shower of the decorated Fittler’s decade-long career.
The Roosters snatched the lead with a try soon afterwards, but the Warriors came home with a wet sail to carve out a momentous 26-16 win via late touchdowns to Matthew Ridge and Stacey Jones.
Ridge’s goalkicking proved vital: both teams scored four tries but the Warriors skipper kicked five-from-five, while Walker and Shane Rigon missed all five of their combined attempts for the Roosters.