THE RIVALRY: WARRIORS V STORM

During a 20-season rivalry, the Warriors have crafted a well-deserved reputation as a bogey side for perennial contenders Melbourne – particularly at the Storm’s home grounds. The teams have staged many dramatic clashes, none more so than the Warriors’ twin finals triumphs in the Victorian capital. Of the current NRL sides, the powerful Storm’s record against the Warriors is worse than against every club except regular heavyweights Canterbury and Sydney Roosters.

Overall record: Played 40 – Melbourne won 22, Warriors won 16, draws 2; Melbourne scored 871 points, Warriors scored 599 points.
Biggest wins: Melbourne – 56-10 at Olympic Park, 2000; Warriors – 28-12 at Olympic Park, 2002.
Longest winning streaks: Melbourne – 4 matches (2016-17); Warriors – 2 matches (5 times – 1998, 2002, 2008, 2010-11 and 2013-14).
Finals: Played 2 – Warriors won 2.
Most appearances: Cameron Smith (Melbourne) – 28; Cooper Cronk (Melbourne) – 27; Ryan Hoffman (Melbourne and Warriors) – 24; Simon Mannering (Warriors) – 23; Billy Slater (Melbourne) – 22; Matt Geyer (Melbourne) – 21; Lance Hohaia (Warriors) – 20.
Most tries: Billy Slater (Melbourne) – 15; Matt Geyer (Melbourne) – 13; Manu Vatuvei (Warriors) – 11; Will Chambers (Melbourne) – 10.
Most points: Cameron Smith (Melbourne) – 152; Matt Geyer (Melbourne) – 62; Billy Slater (Melbourne) – 60; Matt Orford (Melbourne) – 58; Shaun Johnson (Warriors) – 56; Manu Vatuvei (Warriors) – 44.

1998-2005 – Struggling Auckland Warriors spring upsets amidst the thrashings

Melbourne’s dream start to its maiden season was halted by an embattled Auckland outfit that had won just one of its opening four matches, crashing to its first loss 16-12 at Mt Smart Stadium in Round 5 of 1998. Two months later, the 14th-placed Warriors inflicted the ladder-leading Storm’s second of just two regular-season home defeats.

Round 16, 1998 – Auckland steals win in madcap finish
A wildly fluctuating contest concluded with one of premiership football’s most incredible after-the-siren victories. Melbourne halfback Brett Kimmorley appeared to wrap up a tense contest for the competition front-runners at Olympic Park with a field goal two minutes from fulltime, giving the home side a 21-18 advantage over Auckland. But on the last play of the game, the Warriors swung the ball from one sideline to the other, before Stacey Jones launched a bomb after the siren sounded. Despite a horde of Storm players waiting at the kick’s destination, the Warriors managed to bat the ball back, and centre Nigel Vagana fired it out for an unmarked Tony Tatupu to score. After an agonising wait for the video referee’s decision as he dissected the myriad fumbles and rebounds in the movement, the try was awarded, handing victory to the Frank Endacott-coached Auckland team —a rare highlight in a tough season for the club.

The Storm responded with wins at home and away over the Auckland Warriors in 1999, including a nail-biting 16-14 win at Olympic Park that saw the visitors claw back from 16-2 down despite having skipper Matthew Ridge sent off for tripping.

The Warriors upset the defending premiers 14-6 in the opening round of 2000, but the Storm’s visit had a tragic postscript when popular football manager Michael Moore died after jumping off a wharf outside an Auckland waterfront bar, an accident that rocked the club. The Storm and Warriors have competed for the Michael Moore Trophy every season since. Melbourne trounced Auckland 56-10 later in 2000 – the highest score conceded by the Warriors in their first nine seasons – with Matt Geyer scoring four tries from fullback.

The Storm missed the finals for the first time in 2001 as the Warriors qualified for a maiden finals campaign; a 24-all draw at Docklands in Melbourne – after the Storm had trailed 16-0 – in the penultimate round confirmed the Warriors’ spot in the top eight and officially ended the Storm’s finals bid.

The Warriors managed two wins over also-rans Melbourne on their way to the 2002 minor premiership and shared the spoils one win apiece in 2004-05 despite finishing well out of top-eight contention while the Storm re-emerged as finals staples.

 

2006-09 – Warriors thrive at Olympic Park

Melbourne began its watershed 2006 campaign with a 22-16 victory over the Warriors at Mt Smart, featuring a memorable 70-metre solo try by teenage gun Greg Inglis. The Storm later went on a club-record winning streak as runaway minor premiers and turned Olympic Park into a graveyard for visiting teams – until the Warriors came to town in the latter rounds.

Round 24, 2006 – Storm’s winning streak arrested by Warriors
Competition leader Melbourne’s 11-match winning run came to end at the hands of the 12th-placed Warriors in a remarkable clash at Olympic Park. The Storm led 14-12 at the break, but a second-half double to Warriors fullback Brent Webb – including the 80-metre match-winner set up by a long bust from winger Manu Vatuvei in the 73rd minute – clinched the upset. The loss also snapped Melbourne’s streak of 15 victories at home.

Melbourne won its ensuing three matches against the Warriors, including a courageous 4-2 win at Mt Smart in 2007 that coach Craig Bellamy described as the best in his five seasons at the club. Missing six Origin reps, the Storm prevailed thanks to a Jeremy Smith try in the 71st minute.

In the opening match of Melbourne’s title defence in 2008, Billy Slater scored a hat-trick in a 32-18 victory over the Warriors at Docklands; the Storm were fined $10,000 by the NRL in the aftermath for failing to take the field as directed, keeping the Warriors waiting on the pitch for several minutes prior to kick-off. An 8-6 victory in the Auckland wet helped the Warriors scrape into the ’08 finals, and also brought Storm forward Michael Crocker’s extraordinary 34-match winning streak at club and rep levels to an end.

Qualifying Final, 2008 – Warriors pull off miracle upset in Melbourne
The Warriors pulled off an extraordinary last-gasp 18-15 victory over Melbourne at Olympic Park, becoming the first eighth-placed team to defeat the minor premiers in a decade of the controversial McIntyre finals system. The hosts led 8-2 early, but tries to Manu Vatuvei and Jerome Ropati saw the underdogs lead 14-8 soon after the break. A touchdown to Israel Folau and a Greg Inglis field goal edged the Storm in front, seemingly extinguishing the Warriors’ gallant upset bid. But with time running into the last couple of minutes and the Warriors deep inside their own territory, Ropati and Vatuvei combined brilliantly to send Michael Witt into the clear; after a bizarre and risky pre-try celebration, Witt dotted down in the corner just before the Storm cover defence arrived, snatching a famous triumph. The defeat was just Melbourne’s second at Olympic Park since going down to the Warriors during the 2006 regular season.

In 2009, the clubs squared off in the first of what became an annual Anzac Day showdown in Melbourne. The Warriors set aside a flailing start to the season to play the role of difficult guest yet again, holding the Storm to a 14-all draw. The Storm notched a 30-0 victory in Auckland in the final round to conclude a disappointing season for the Warriors.

 

2010-14 – Storm’s hosting troubles continue at new home ground

In its last home match before moving into the brand new AAMI Park, Melbourne hosted the Warriors at Docklands on Anzac Day, 2010. Unfortunately for the Warriors, the Storm had been shattered by the revelations of salary cap breaches – and the NRL’s punishment, which included the stripping of two premierships and preventing the club from participating in the 2010 finals – just days earlier. Craig Bellamy’s fired-up side took their frustrations out on the Warriors, sweeping to a devastating 40-6 win, with Kiwi winger Matt Duffie scoring a double in his NRL debut.

But the Warriors improved on their impressive record in Melbourne with a stirring 18-14 upset on their first visit to AAMI Park on Anzac Day in 2011. The Storm recorded a hard-fought 16-8 win at Mt Smart later that season, but more home-ground pain awaited in the finals.

Preliminary Final, 2011 – Warriors stun Storm to snare Grand Final berth
The Warriors’ 20-12 triumph in Melbourne to advance to the 2011 Grand Final was destined to take on mythical status in the club’s narrative. Already regarded as a bogey side for the powerhouse Storm and always enjoying overwhelming crowd support in the Victorian capital, the Auckland-based side still started as rank outsiders after a rollercoaster ride to the preliminary final, but led 14-12 after an enthralling, seesawing first half. Outstanding commitment in defence held the Storm scoreless during the gripping second stanza, before rookie halfback Shaun Johnson’s mesmerising cross-field jaunt to set up Lewis Brown’s 77th-minute match-winner that has since passed into finals folklore. James Maloney’s booming sideline conversion of Brown’s try sealed the Warriors’ unlikely decider berth and ended the shell-shocked minor premiers’ campaign.

A Will Chambers hat-trick spearheaded Melbourne’s 32-14 Anzac Day win in 2012, kicking away after the scores were locked 14-all – largely thanks to a pair of miraculous try groundings by Warriors winger Bill Tupou – midway through the second half; the Storm scored three tries in the final 12 minutes. The Storm overturned an early 12-0 scoreline to down the Warriors 22-12 on an Auckland road trip just five weeks later.

During a disastrous start to 2013 that garnered just two wins in the opening 10 rounds, the Warriors again saved their best form for the Storm. An 80-metre intercept try by Shaun Johnson gave the Warriors a 16-10 lead, but Will Chambers’ second try – after two dubious passes in the lead-up – with nine minutes left was the decisive moment in the Storm’s 28-18 win. The Warriors responded with a thrilling 30-22 victory over the defending champs at home as their giant-killing mid-season run continued.

The Warriors overcame another dismal start in 2014 – winning just two of their opening seven matches – to ensure their record of never losing three straight matches in Melbourne remained intact. With former Storm halfback and assistant coach Andrew McFadden at the helm of the Warriors, winger David Fusitu’a, playing in his third NRL game, showed tremendous athleticism to score the opening try, before brilliantly laying on the match-winner for Johnson in a courageous 16-10 Anzac Day success. The Storm’s all-time win rate at home is 77 per cent, but they have won just 12 of their 21 games hosting the Warriors.

After veteran Storm and Kangaroos backrower Ryan Hoffman joined the Warriors prior to the 2015 season, the clubs’ traditional Anzac Day fixture was moved to Easter Monday, with the Storm prevailing 30-14 at AAMI Park.

The Warriors hit back later in the season with a high-quality 28-14 win, which included Nathan Friend’s unforgettable somersault offload in the lead-up to a Tuimoala Lolohea try, and a stunning solo four-pointer from Shaun Johnson.

Squaring off twice in the first eight rounds of 2016, Melbourne notched two wins against the Warriors in a season for the first time in four years. The Storm held on for a 21-14 victory at Mt Smart and – with the teams’ AAMI Park clash restored to Anzac Day – obliterated their visitors 42-0 at home.

Foundation Auckland Warrior and Melbourne Storm stalwart Stephen Kearney, who had a lengthy stint as Bellamy’s assistant coach after retiring from the playing ranks, took the reins of the Warriors in 2017, helping lure highly sought-after Storm back-rower Tohu Harris to Auckland from 2018.

The Storm grinded out two hard-fought wins over the Warriors in the opening eight rounds of 2017 to achieve the first-ever four-match winning streak in the rivalry.

THEY PLAYED FOR BOTH CLUBS

Stephen Kearney: Tough, skilful second-rower Kearney, a veteran of 43 Tests for New Zealand, played 79 games as a foundation Auckland Warrior before linking with Melbourne in 1999. He celebrated in the Storm’s grand final triumph in his first season there and ultimately made 139 appearances for the club, departing for Hull FC at the end of 2004. Kearney began his coaching journey as an assistant to Craig Bellamy at the Storm, and after guiding the Kiwis to World Cup and Four Nations success, he coaching Parramatta’s NRL team in 2011-12. Returning to the assistant ranks with the Broncos, Kearney eventually gave up the national team’s reins in late-2016 to take over at the Warriors in 2017.

Paul Whatuira: Waniuomata junior Whatuira cut his teeth in first grade with the Auckland Warriors in 2000, coming off the bench five times. He scored two tries in six games as a winger for the Storm in 2001, before winning grand finals with Penrith (2003) and Wests Tigers (2005) as one of the competition’s most underrated centres. Whatuira played 16 Tests for the Kiwis from 2004-07 and finished his professional career with stints at Huddersfield and Parramatta.

Henry Perenara: Auckland-born Perenara debuted for the Warriors a week after his 18th birthday, playing three top-grade games in 2000. He then moved to Melbourne, playing 33 games across two seasons and making his sole Test appearance for the Kiwis, before stints with the Dragons, Eels and Sharks. Perenara has been an NRL referee since 2011.

John Carlaw: Newcastle junior Carlaw earned his first-grade spurs with the short-lived Hunter Mariners, before playing 24 of the Storm’s 27 games in the club’s stunning 1998 debut season. The centre/winger had stints with Balmain and Wests Tigers before a career-best two-season stay with the Warriors, playing in the 2002 grand final amongst 35 appearances for the Auckland side.during the 2014 Four Nations. e outpointing the Maroons maestro in two spectauc

Wairangi Koopu: Hardworking backrower Koopu played 159 games for the Warriors from 1999-2008 and represented the Kiwis in three Tests in 2004-05. He wrapped up his NRL career with 12 games for the Storm in 2009.

Tony Martin: Gladstone-born Martin had his first taste of top-level league with London Broncos before returning to Australia and playing 69 NRL games during Melbourne’s first three seasons. He scored a try in the Storm’s 1999 grand final triumph. Martin returned to London in 2001 but took up a deal with the Warriors in 2004 and scored 366 points (13 tries, 109 goals) in 53 games across four seasons.

Ryan Shortland: Born in Masterton but playing his junior footy in Coogee, Shortland made one appearance off the bench for the Storm in 2007 before linking with the
Warriors. The centre scored three tries in five games for the Warriors during 2008, but made a switch to rugby union with Otago and then English club Newcastle.

James Maloney: Tenacious goalkicking half Maloney played four games for eventual premiers Melbourne in 2009, but was still a relative unknown when he arrived at the Warriors in 2010. He scored 547 points in 75 games for the club and played a vital role in its charge to the 2011 Grand Final but, homesick for Sydney, he moved to the Roosters in 2013, achieving premiership success and Origin honours. Maloney then won a grand final at Cronulla in 2016 before being lured to Penrith this season.

Dane Nielsen: Recognised as a solid defensive centre, Nielsen played 78 games for Melbourne, featuring in the club’s 2009 and 2012 Grand Final wins and representing Queensland in three Origins in 2011-12. He joined the Warriors in 2013 and played 30 games for the club across two seasons. Nielsen has since had stints at St George Illawarra, Bradford and South Sydney.

Todd Lowrie: Another highly-rated member of Melbourne’s 2012 grand final side, former Newcastle and Parramatta lock Lowrie played 64 games for the Storm before heading to the Warriors in 2013. The move lasted just one season, however, seeking a compassionate release to join the Broncos after 21 games in Warriors colours.

Nathan Friend: Toowoomba product Friend made his NRL debut in the famous Origin-depleted ‘Baby Broncos’ defeat of Wests Tigers in 2002 under Brisbane assistant coach Craig Bellamy, before joining Bellamy at Melbourne in 2003. The hooker played 34 games across four seasons, culminating in an appearance off the bench in the Storm’s 2006 grand final loss. A mainstay during the Titans’ first five seasons, Friend joined the Warriors in 2012 and played 86 games in four years – a stint perhaps best remembered for his freakish upside-down pass against the Storm that won the Headline Moment of the Year at the 2015 Dally Ms. Friend finished an admirable 242-game career back at the Titans in 2016.

Ryan Hoffman: Starting his NRL career with Melbourne in 2003, second-rower Hoffman featured in four straight grand finals for the club (2006-09) and won a premiership in 2012 after returning to the Storm from a one-season stint at Wigan in the wake of the 2010 salary cap scandal. A veteran of seven Tests for Australia, Hoffman played the last of his 14 Origins for NSW after joining the Warriors on a rich deal in 2015. He stayed in Auckland for three seasons, captaining the club in 2016 and playing 60 games, including his 300th career NRL appearance. He returned for a third Storm stint in 2018, playing in all seven games so far this season and hitting the 250-game mark for the club.

Blake Green: Journeyman five-eighth Green had uneventful stints with Parramatta, Cronulla and Canterbury, but a four-season Super League stint – which included a Harry Sunderland Trophy win in Wigan’s 2013 grand final success – turned his career around. Green’s two-year stay at Melbourne garnered 50 games and a grand final appearance in 2016, while he was hailed as one of the buys of the year after linking with Manly in 2017. The wily playmaker’s influence has been equalling striking since joining the Warriors this year, touted as a possible NSW Origin bolter at the age of 31.

Adam Blair: Northland product Blair became a grand final winner and Kiwi Test regular during six seasons at the Storm, playing 121 games for the club – including grand finals in 2006 and 2008-09. He then joined the Tigers for an ill-fated three-season stay in 2012 that saw him losing his New Zealand jumper and become one of the NRL’s most maligned players. But he regained his international spot at the end of 2014, just before linking with Brisbane. The enforcer played 74 games for the Broncos from 2015-17 – including a grand final loss in his first season at the club – before signing a deal to join the Warriors. Blair extended his Kiwis record to 43 Tests during a disastrous World Cup campaign at the end of 2017, but he has featured prominently in the Warriors’ stunning start to 2018. He has 271 NRL appearances to his name since debuting in 2006.

Tohu Harris: Hastings-born Harris was a shock Kiwi Test debutant in 2013 after just six first-grade games for the Storm, but he quickly developed into one of the NRL’s elite back-rowers, racking up 16 Test appearances by the end of 2016. Harris signed with the Warriors early in 2017, but not before signing off from the Storm by starring in their 2017 grand final triumph – his 117th outing for the club. The 26-year-old has been at the forefront of the Warriors’ resurgence in 2018 but will miss the clash with his former club due to concussion.

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