TWL TOP 10: WARRIORS ONE-GAME WONDERS

A total of 15 players make up the Warriors’ ‘One-game wonders’ – a group that have made just a solitary first grade premiership appearance for the club. This week we take a look at the most notable.

TOP 10 WARRIORS ‘ONE-GAME WONDERS’

  1. Siutonga Likiliki – v Parramatta, 2009

Marist Saints junior Likiliki was just 19 when he was called up to start at centre against a red-hot Parramatta late in the 2009 season. But the youngster’s watershed moment was overshadowed by a Jarryd Hayne-led 40-4 demolition job.

Despite being named in the NYC Team of the Year, further top-grade opportunities were not forthcoming for Likiliki and he signed with Newcastle after scoring a try in the Warriors’ maiden Under-20s grand final win in 2010.

Likiliki played two NRL games for the Knights in 2011 but the Tongan international was unable to progress past NSW Cup and Queensland Cup levels thereafter, with a move to the Gold Coast Titans failing to revive his professional career.

  1. Shaun Lane – v St George Illawarra, 2016

Releasing dynamic tyro Raymond Faitala-Mariner to Canterbury early in 2016 seemed a baffling move from the Warriors, but at least in return the club was getting one of the game’s most promising forwards in towering Bulldogs youngster Lane.

The 21-year-old made his top-grade debut for the club as the shorthanded Warriors upset St George Illawarra days after demoting several players for an off-field incident, but he lost his spot as the misbehaving cavalry returned.

Lane joined Manly at the end of the season, playing 20 games in the maroon and white so far. Along with Upu Poching (versus North Queensland in 2010), Lane is one of only two Warriors one-game wonders to have tasted victory.

  1. Frank Watene – v Manly, 1998

Signed by the Auckland Warriors in 1994 and a Junior Kiwis rep in ’96, Watene seemed destined for the top flight but never really kicked on while on home soil.

Watene played in Warriors’ 1997 Super League reserve grade grand final loss to the Bulldogs but had to wait until the final round of ’98 to make his first grade debut, coming off the bench in a 38-12 thrashing at the hands of Manly – Frank Endacott’s last game as coach of the club.

The following season Watene joined Super League club Wakefield Trinity before spending a decade with English lower-division outfits Dewsbury and Halifax.

  1. David Murray – v Manly, 1996

The club’s original one-game wonder, courageous fullback ‘Doc’ Murray was a star on the Auckland Rugby League scene with Ellerslie before picking a contract with the fledgling Auckland Warriors.

The court order preventing Super League from going ahead in 1996 scuppered John Monie’s fullback plans with Matthew Ridge not allowed to join the club, and the coach turned to Murray in Round 5 after underwhelming displays from Marc Ellis and Gene Ngamu in the key position.

But Murray was promptly dropped after the Warriors’ 22-10 loss to Manly, Greg Alexander eventually settling into the No.1 jumper. The 23-year-old was nevertheless a key member of the reserve grade side that qualified for a historic grand final, setting up Nigel Vagana for a late try in a 14-12 defeat to Cronulla.

Murray then starred in dual wins over Great Britain for New Zealand XIII and NZ Maori, and scored five tries in two games for the latter against the touring Papua New Guinea side. He played for Super League clubs Wigan and Warrington in 1997.

  1. Meti Noovao – v Perth, 1997

A classy utility who played in almost every position for the Warriors’ reserve grade side, Noovao came off the bench in 1996 decider against Cronulla and featured at five-eighth in the ’97 loss to Canterbury – earning his sole premiership appearance in between.

Noovao was used as an interchange as the Warriors suffered a disappointing 24-12 loss to Perth Reds at the WACA in 1997, though he probably has fonder memories of playing in big wins over St Helens (bench) and Warrington in that year’s World Club Challenge tournament, which are not considered official first-grade appearances.

The brother of former Silvern Ferns captain Ana Noovao, he joined the Adelaide Rams in 1998 and stands as one of just two one-game wonders at the now-defunct club. Noovao linked with Burleigh Bears the following season and was part of Cook Islands’ 2000 World Cups squad, scoring a try at lock in an 84-10 loss to the Kiwis.

  1. Daniel O’Regan – v South Sydney, 2009

Robust five-eighth/lock Daniel O’Regan made one NRL appearance off the bench during the Warriors’ troubled 2009 campaign. The nephew of former New Zealand Test player Ron O’Regan, the Kaipara College product represented the Junior Kiwis in 2005. He arrived at the Warriors via Mt Albert and Manurewa, and became the club’s inaugural Toyota Cup Under-20s captain in 2008.

The 21-year-old O’Regan featured for NSW Cup affiliate Auckland Vulcans throughout 2009 and played his sole first grade game for the Warriors off the bench in an early-season loss to Souths, becoming the club’s 150th player to appear in the top flight. O’Regan joined Melbourne Storm in 2010 but did not feature at NRL level for the premiership powerhouse, instead playing in the NSW Cup competition.

  1. Paul Atkins – v Sydney Roosters, 2004

Fullback/winger Paul Atkins (main image) made the step up from the Bartercard Cup competition to play one match for the New Zealand Warriors in 2004. The 21-year-old Otahuhu-Ellerslie Leopards star came off the bench in the struggling Warriors’ penultimate regular season match, a 30-24 loss to heavyweights Sydney Roosters.

His debut was notable for being subjected to two bell-ringers by the Roosters’ British enforcer Adrian Morley, but coach Tony Kemp praised the 80kg Atkins’ courage post-match. Atkins subsequently represented Auckland and New Zealand A in losses to the touring Jim Beam Cup Representative Team and played fullback in New Zealand Universities’ 17-8 victory over their Australian counterparts in the final of the 2005 Student World Cup in Brisbane.

Featuring for the Tamaki Leopards in the Bartercard Cup, Atkins represented New Zealand Maori in the 2006 Pacific Cup. He joined the Howick Hornets club in 2007 and played for Auckland Vulcans during their 2008 NSW Cup campaign.

Atkins’ lone NRL outing was so memorable that it recently became the subject of a short documentary by Sky Sports, used as filler between programs. Meanwhile, another Warriors one-game wonder played his only first-grade match in the same game – Canterbury (NZ) product and former junior Kiwi Kane Ferris.

  1. Danny Sullivan – v Penrith, 2004

Western Sydney junior Sullivan was earmarked for rugby league’s heights but injury curtailed his career. The back-rower was a star of the crack 1999 Australian Schoolboys combination that included Braith Anasta, Jamie Lyon, Corey Parker, Brent Tate and future Warriors great Micheal Luck.

The 19-year-old Sullivan played five games for runaway premiers Parramatta in 2001 – including their qualifying final demolition of the Warriors – but an ACL injury followed by a Golden staph infection wrecked the next two years.

The Warriors took a punt on Sullivan, who had come under coach Daniel Anderson’s tutelage in the Eels’ juniors, but his knee problems resurfaced after his front-row appearance in a 42-22 loss to Penrith early in 2004. He returned to Australia and made the agonising decision to retire.

  1. Mark Robinson – v Bulldogs, 2003

Easily the most famous one-game wonder at the time of his sole NRL appearance for the Warriors, ‘Sharky’ Robinson was a three-Test All Blacks halfback when he switched codes on a short-term contract.

The Whangarei product starred in Super Rugby for the Chiefs and Blues before taking a deal with the Warriors in 2003 to mark time before joining Northampton Saints in the following English rugby union season.

Getting a rugby league grounding with North Harbour Tigers in the Bartercard Cup, Robinson – playing at hooker – scored four tries in a game against Wellington. He received an NRL call-up and started at hooker for the injured PJ Marsh in the Warriors’ 18-12 loss to the Bulldogs – ironically at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium, where he played plenty of union. Marsh returned a week later and Robinson’s brief time in top league company was over.

Robinson played six seasons in England with Northampton and Wasps before knee injuries forced him to retire in 2010.

  1. Sio Siua Taukeiaho – v St George Illawarra, 2013

Of the Warriors’ one-game wonder contingent, Taukeiaho is unquestionably the one that got away. The Otara Scorpions junior featured in the Warriors’ 2011 NYC grand final triumph and represented the Junior Kiwis.

An NRL debut eventually came in the final round of 2013, entering the fray off the pine in a dismal 19-10 defeat to St George Illawarra. But further opportunities were not forthcoming and Taukeiaho joined the Roosters in 2015, where he has played 72 first grade games in three and half seasons.

Big and mobile with a huge engine, Taukeiaho is also a 75 percent goalkicker. After making Test debuts for Tonga and New Zealand in 2015, he was one of the stars of the 2017 World Cup for the former – including in a historic defeat of the Kiwis in Hamilton.

*The other Warriors ‘one-game wonders’ are Herewini Rangi (1999), Anthony Seuseu (2001), Kane Ferris (2004), Upu Poching (2010) and Erin Clark (2017).

**Joseph Vuna and Gerard Beale have also made just one NRL appearance for the Warriors after earning club debuts this season, but both remain in line to add to their top-grade tallies at the club.

 

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