TWL TOP 10: WARRIORS’ MOST POTENT TRYSCORERS

Everyone knows that it’s Manu first and daylight second, third and fourth on the Warriors’ all-time tryscoring register, but which players have the best strike-rates in the club’s 23-season history?

Put away your calculators, we’ve done the legwork for you:

TOP 10 TRYSCORING STRIKE-RATES BY WARRIORS PLAYERS (Minimum 15 tries)

*Statistics current up to the end of NRL Round 9, 2018

10. Phil Blake (1995-97): 37 games – 17 tries (0.46 per game)

One of the top 20 tryscorers in premiership history with 138 in 269 games, the mercurial Phil Blake was on fire as the Auckland Warriors joined the Winfield Cup in 1995. The 31-year-old was the club’s foundation fullback, crossing for the Warriors’ first-ever try in Round 1 against the Broncos and notching four in their maiden win (the infamous fifth replacement game against the Magpies) a fortnight later.

Blake also bagged doubles against the Steelers and Bears in the first four rounds to take an early lead in the competition’s tryscoring stakes, ultimately finishing ’95 with 14 from 17 appearances after being relegated to the bench. The tries dried up for the veteran in subsequent seasons as he bounced around the team sheet, but those early heroics were enough for Blake to squeeze onto the tail-end of this list.

9. Todd Byrne (2005-07): 43 games – 21 tries (0.49 tries per game)

‘Skinny’ Byrne is destined to be remembered for being cut down by Scott Sattler in the 2003 grand final, but he scored 30 tries in 61 games for the Roosters and was similarly prolific at the Warriors. The lanky flyer was the Warriors’ top tryscorer in 2005 with a career-high 14 from 22 games – including a remarkable run of 13 tries in 13 outings.

Only an intermittent member of the first-grade side during the next two campaigns, the versatile Byrne’s output slowed but he managed a double in his last regular-season appearance for the Warriors against Penrith in 2007 (see video). He joined Hull FC for a modest stint the following year.

8. Solomone Kata (2015-17): 71 games – 35 tries (0.49 tries per game)

Nuggetty centre Kata ended Manu Vatuvei’s nine-season stranglehold on the Warriors’ tryscoring title, edging the club legend by one in his 2015 rookie season by touching down 12 times in 24 games. Kata led the way again in 2016 with 15 tries in 21 games to secure a Kiwis call-up but went off the boil in all facets of play last year and finished with just five tries in a season hampered by injury and personal setbacks.

Kata’s tryscoring touch appears to have returned in 2018, however, crossing the stripe with typically powerful charges in each of the Warriors’ first two games.

7. Nigel Vagana (1996-2000): 71 games – 37 tries (0.52 tries per game)

The first non-Australian player to score a century of first-grade tries, Vagana began his premiership career with the Warriors and led the club in tryscoring in 1998 (13) and 2000 (12).

Vagana stepped up his strike-rate after joining the Bulldogs in 2002 – racing in for 61 tries in just 71 games – and finished his career with 140 tries from 240 appearances after less prolific stints with Cronulla and Souths.

6. Francis Meli (1999-2005): 110 games – 60 tries (0.55 tries per game)

Wing bulldozer Meli’s solid strike-rate can largely be attributed to his stellar 2003 campaign, winning the Warriors’ Player of the Year award after scoring 23 tries in 27 games – including a club record and all-time finals record five-try haul against the Bulldogs.

That unforgettable night was the only time Meli scored more than two tries in an NRL game, while the Samoa and New Zealand rep’s return of 10 tries in 16 games in 2004 was the only other year he broke the 0.5 tries per game barrier in a season.

5. Sean Hoppe (1995-99): 93 games – 52 tries (0.56 tries per game)

Former Canberra and Norths flyer Hoppe was a prized signing for the fledgling Warriors and lived up to his billing as one of the world’s best finishers with 19 tries from 22 games and Dally M Winger of the Year honours in the club’s 1995 debut season.

The remainder of the Northcote Tigers product’s five-season tenure at the Warriors was less productive, though he did manage a team-high 11 tries from 18 games during the 1997 Super League campaign. Hoppe, a 34-Test Kiwi, headed to England in 2000 with 81 tries in 152 first-grade games to his name.

4. Konrad Hurrell (2012-16): 71 games – 41 tries (0.58 tries per game)

Ah Konnie, one of the great unfulfilled Warriors talents. For all his enigmatic qualities on and off the field, though, Hurrell rates alongside any player in the club’s history as an attacking talent.

After going on a tryscoring rampage at NYC level, the powerhouse centre scored 12 tries in 17 games in his 2012 rookie year, backed it up with 13 tries in 20 games in 2013, and dotted down 12 times in 19 games in 2014 – few of them less than memorable.

But Hurrell fell out of favour with Andrew McFadden in 2015 and scored just four tries in his last 16 games for the club before linking with the Titans midway through 2016.

3. Glen Fisiiahi (2011-15): 25 games – 15 tries (0.60 tries per game)

Speaking of unfilled talents and enigmas…

‘The Fish’ is quite possibly the fastest player to don a Warriors jumper, but a succession of injuries and erratic form limited him to just 25 NRL appearances across five seasons before he switched to rugby union with the Chiefs.

Fisiiahi didn’t edge past a strike-rate of 0.5 tries per game until a sizzling four-try performance against Wests Tigers in 2014, but the injury curse dictated that the elusive winger/fullback played just two more games for the Warriors in the top flight.

2. David Fusitu’a (2014-17): 66 games – 43 tries (0.65 tries per game)

Arguably the Warriors’ premier backline weapon at present, Fusitu’a has finished each of his four seasons in the NRL with a tryscoring strike-rate of 0.5 or better.

He burst onto the scene as 19-year-old with seven tries from 12 rookie-year appearances in 2014, overcame a long run of injuries to score 11 tries in 18 games in 2016 – including four tries in a match against Newcastle – and led the club last season with 12 tries in 24 games, featuring a hat-trick at the Knights’ expense.

Interestingly, until the end of 2017 Fusitu’a’s strike-rate at centre (12 tries in 19 games) was slightly better than when he plays on the wing (19 in 31 games). If Stephen Kearney wants the tall speedster to keep piling on the four-pointers, he should keep him away from fullback (one try in seven games).

But a blistering start to 2018 – scoring 11 tries in the first nine rounds – has sparked predictions of a Manu-like season haul on the flank for the Kiwis and Tonga Test rep.

1. Manu Vatuvei (2005-15): 226 games – 152 tries (0.67 tries per game)

It’s yet another mark of Manu Vatuvei’s greatness that he is 70 tries clear of the second-most prolific try-scorer in Warriors history and second on the club’s all-time appearances register while also boasting by far the best strike-rate of any Warriors player, averaging two tries for every three NRL games played.

The oft-maligned Warriors stalwart was outstanding in the air, almost unstoppable one-on-one, very tough to run down when in the clear, and had an uncanny knack of getting the ball down in the corner for a big man.

‘The Beast’ scored an unprecedented 10 tries in 10 consecutive seasons from 2006-15, including a career-high 20 touchdowns in just 19 games in 2010. The equal-10th try-scorer in premiership history – and fourth in the NRL era behind only Billy Slater, Brett Stewart and Nathan Merritt – Vatuvei is also New Zealand’s greatest try-scorer with 22 in 28 Tests at an outstanding 0.79 strike-rate.

TOP 10 WARRIORS TRYSCORERS

1. Manu Vatuvei – 152
2. Stacey Jones – 82
3. Simon Mannering – 63
4. Shaun Johnson – 61
4. Francis Meli – 60
6=. Lance Hohaia – 57
6=. Clinton Toopi – 57
8. Jerome Ropati – 54
9. Sean Hoppe – 52
10. David Fusitu’a – 43

*All statistics current up to the end of NRL Round 9, 2018. 

[YouTube – MANGII SOUTHSIDE]

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