It will come as no surprise to most Warriors fans that the club has barely featured on Dally M awards night during the club’s previous 23 seasons.
That’s set to change on Wednesday night with the Warriors nominated in seven categories – including Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who is the bookies’ favourite to carry off a historic Dally M Medal win.
TWL charts the history of the Warriors’ occasional wins and many near misses at the Dally Ms.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
A rabble for much of their first six seasons, the Auckland Warriors never had any genuine contenders for the Dally M Medal from 1995-2000 – though Stacey Jones was a top-20 finisher in the last-ever Rothmans Medal, the game’s official Player of the Year gong from 1967-96.
Jones was at the forefront of the rebranded, rejuvenated New Zealand Warriors’ charge in the early-2000s and made a big impression at the Dally Ms. With 26 votes, the talismanic halfback finished third by Cronulla’s Preston Campbell and Newcastle’s Andrew Johns (who was ineligible after being suspended twice) after steering the Warriors to their maiden finals series in 2001.
‘The Little General’ finished sixth with 19 votes in the 2002 as Johns claimed a record third Dally M Medal. Despite a dismal season for the club under Tony Kemp in 2005, the Super League-bound Jones performed admirably to accrue 18 Dally M votes and finish equal-seventh.
Brent Webb gave it a solid shake in 2006 with 18 votes and a ninth-place finish in the overall count, while Steve Price polled the second-most votes ever by a Warrior, 20, in 2007 to land equal-ninth and Wade McKinnon, Webb’s fullback replacement, was just three votes back in equal-14th.
Simon Mannering netted a career-high 15 votes for a top-20 finish in 2008. Kevin Locke (18 votes) finished equal-11th and Feleti Mateo (17) 14th as the club finished sixth in 2011. Ben Matulino finished an admirable equal-17th with 15 votes in the Warriors’ dreadful 2012 campaign.
Shaun Johnson has traditionally struggled to poll well in the Dally Ms and made his only genuine run in 2013, coming equal-16th with 15 votes. Manu Vatuvei bagged a career-best 12 votes to make the top-25 in 2014.
Johnson was the Warriors’ leading vote-getter in 2015-16 – with modest tallies of eight and 10 respectively, before Roger Tuivasa-Sheck provided some light in a bleak campaign by finishing equal-12th with 17 votes.
COACH OF THE YEAR
After steering the Warriors to a historic minor premiership in 2002, Daniel Anderson became the club’s first and only Dally M Coach of the Year.
Ivan Cleary was shortlisted behind winner Craig Bellamy in 2007 in the wake of the Warriors’ only other top-four finish.
Stephen Kearney is in with a red-hot chance of taking out the gong this year, however, with Bellamy, rookie Souths mentor Anthony Seibold and the Roosters’ Trent Robinson his only genuine competition.
CAPTAIN OF THE YEAR
Steve Price was a worthy Dally M Captain of the Year recipient for the third time in his career in 2007, having won it in 2002 and ’04 while at the Bulldogs.
Ironically, Price’s maiden win in ’02 prevented Stacey Jones from potentially claiming the prize.
Simon Mannering was unlucky to miss out in 2010-11, to Braith Anasta (Roosters) and Cameron Smith (Storm) respectively.
If there is one award Tuivasa-Sheck looks certain to win on Wednesday night, it’s the Captain of the Year gong.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) September 25, 2018
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
No Warriors winners in this category and only a couple of contenders.
Jones was in the mix for the Dally M Rookie of the Year prize in 1995, with Sharks winger Mat Rogers eventually carrying it off.
Lance Hohaia was edged out by countryman Matt Utai in 2002; the pair made their Kiwi Test debuts together at the end of that season.
There have been few candidates since, though James Maloney could easily have ousted Matt Gillett in 2010, Tui Lolohea and Solomone Kata rated a mention when Jack Bird won it in 2015, and Isaiah Papali’i was one of this year’s rookie standouts.
FULLBACK OF THE YEAR
Webb finished just one vote behind Dally M Fullback of the Year winner Clinton Schifcofske in 2006.
McKinnon was a standout in 2007 but an incredible class of custodians – with Matt Bowen, Brett Stewart and Billy Slater all polling more points – meant he was never a realistic chance of the positional award.
Tuivasa-Sheck will likely have to win the Dally M Medal to clinch the Fullback of the Year prize, with rival No.1s Kalyn Ponga and Valentine Holmes among his biggest challengers for the main award.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) September 24, 2018
WINGER OF THE YEAR
Sean Hoppe created history by receiving the club’s first nod with the Winger of the Year statue in the Warriors’ fledgling 1995 campaign.
Francis Meli was a leading candidate for the gong in 2003, when the awards were eventually scrapped due to a dispute between the NRL and the RLPA.
It remains one of the great Dally M travesties, however, that Manu Vatuvei never had his name inscribed on a Winger of the Year trophy.
‘The Beast’ was tipped out by Canberra’s Colin Best (!) in 2008, Akuila Uate in 2010 (more understandable) and Semi Radradra (who polled less than half as many Dally M Medal points as Vatuvei) in 2014, his three best seasons.
David Fusitu’a is a huge chance of replicating Hoppe’s feat on Wednesday night, though the likes of Corey Oates, Josh Addo-Carr and Blake Ferguson have also had big years.
CENTRE OF THE YEAR
Few names spring to mind as having genuinely contended for Centre of the Year honours, aside from perhaps Clinton Toopi during his 2002-03 pomp, when many considered him the best centre in the world.
Nigel Vagana was a worthy winner in ’02, however, after topping the NRL’s tryscoring charts, while the awards were scrapped in ’03.
Interesting, a centre has never won the Dally M Medal.
FIVE-EIGHTH OF THE YEAR
James Maloney polled bewilderingly poorly during his vintage 2010-11 seasons at the Warriors, but would have had little chance against 2010 Player of the Year Todd Carney and 2011 Dally M Medal runner-up Benji Marshall.
Blake should have polled well early this year but faded out of the reckoning in a positional award that should be won by Gareth Widdop, Maloney or Cameron Munster.
HALFBACK OF THE YEAR
Unfortunately for Jones, the years he made a run at the Dally M Medal, they were won by No.7s who also snared the positional gong: Preston Campbell (2001), Andrew Johns (2002) and Johnathan Thurston (2005).
Ditto for Johnson during his 2013 run, with Cooper Cronk the Player of the Year. In a year that hasn’t exactly been a banner one for halfbacks – Wests Tigers’ Luke Brooks is the favourite – Johnson can’t have been too far off the pace in 2018.
PROP OF THE YEAR
Steve Price became just the third Warrior to win a positional Dally M when he was name the 2007 Prop of the Year.
Matulino finished with the same amount of votes as winner Sam Kasiano in 2012.
HOOKER OF THE YEAR
PJ Marsh must have pushed Danny Buderus hard for the Hooker of the Year honour in 2002, but it’s not a position the Warriors have otherwise boasted a real shining star – until this year.
Issac Luke would have been a huge chance of grabbing the prize in most other seasons, but Player of the Year contender Damien Cook appears to have it wrapped up.
SECOND-ROWER OF THE YEAR
Ali Lauiti’iti was just the second Warrior to win a Dally M positional award after Hoppe, named the Second-rower of the Year at the end of a stellar 2002 season. He was the only player other than Nathan Hindmarsh to collect the gong between 2000 and ’06.
Manly’s Glenn Stewart won it in 2008 despite polling three fewer votes than Mannering, who in a very strong 2014 season finished with the same amount of Medal votes as the Second-rower of the Year winner, Newcastle’s Beau Scott.
A lengthy injury stint probably left Tohu Harris with too much ground to make up on likely winner Tyson Frizell for the 2018 honour.
LOCK OF THE YEAR
Again not a position traditionally graced by the game’s best at the Warriors, but Kevin Campion could easily have shaded Parramatta’s Daniel Wagon (2001) and Northern Eagles’ Steve Menzies (2002) during his two-year Auckland stint.
Micheal Luck, who wore the No.13 more than any other Warrior, was probably too unspectacular to be considered for Lock of the Year honours. Similarly, Mannering was competing with Jason Taumalolo and Paul Gallen by the time he switched to lock.
INTERCHANGE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Only awarded for the first time last year, with Penrith’s Reagan Campbell-Gillard taking it out.
Warriors utility Jazz Tevaga has to be a huge chance this year, with 2019 teammate Leeson Ah Mau (Dragons), James Segeyaro (Sharks), Cameron Murray (Rabbitohs) and Zane Tetavano (Roosters) the only regular bench men to stand out as contenders.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) March 31, 2018
The Warriors have at least one award in the bag: Fusitu’a will be handed the Dally M Top Tryscorer trophy after finishing atop the standings at the end of the regular season.
FEMALE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Awarded since 2014, this year’s Female Player of the Year has Warriors hooker Krystal Rota among the nominees.
PETER FRILINGOS MEMORIAL HEADLINE MOMENT OF THE YEAR AWARD
This award is always a bit of a lottery, with events as disparate as four Burgess brothers playing together (2013) and the Blues winning Origin (2014) winning it.
But there have been few more popular winners of the award than Nathan Friend’s unforgettable upside-down, between-the-legs pass that led to a try in the Warriors’ win over the Storm in 2015.