A SHORT HISTORY OF…WARRIOR KIWIS

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The Warriors have produced 70 New Zealand internationals since 1995.

It’s an impressive tally, given the leading club in terms of producing Australian internationals, Sydney Roosters with 84, have been around since 1908. Fellow foundation club South Sydney are second on the list alongside Manly, which joined the premiership in 1947, with 71 players donning the green and gold.

The Roosters (27), Canterbury (24) and Melbourne (20) are the next-most frequent homes for Kiwis players.

WARRIORS KIWIS REPRESENTATIVES: Leeson Ah Mau, Louis Anderson*, Vinnie Anderson*, Monty Betham*, Richie Blackmore, Adam Blair, Lewis Brown*, Logan Edwards, Marc Ellis*, Syd Eru*, Henry Fa’afili*, Sione Faumuina*, Nathan Fien*, Kieran Foran, David Fusitu’a*, Awen Guttenbeil*, Siliva Havili*, Ben Henry*, Aaron Heremaia*, Terry Hermansson, Peta Hiku, Lance Hohaia*, Sean Hoppe, Mark Horo, Kevin Iro, Shaun Johnson*, Stacey Jones*, Solomone Kata*, Stephen Kearney, Wairangi Koopu*, Tevita Latu*, Epalahame Lauaki*, Ali Lauitiiti*, Thomas Leuluai*, Kevin Locke*, Tuimoala Lolohea*, Issac Luke, Simon Mannering*, Suaia Matagi*, Ben Matulino*, Ken Maumalo*, Francis Meli*, Gene Ngamu, Kodi Nikorima, Hitro Okesene, Russell Packer*, Iafeta Palea’aesina*, Isaiah Papali’i*, Quentin Pongia, Sam Rapira*, Matthew Ridge, Jerome Ropati*, Tea Ropati, Jerry Seuseu*, Anthony Swann*, Logan Swann*, Tony Tatupu, Elijah Taylor*, Motu Tony*, Clinton Toopi*, Evarn Tuimavave*, Tony Tuimavave*, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Bill Tupou**, Joe Vagana*, Nigel Vagana*, Manu Vatuvei*, Brent Webb*, Ruben Wiki, Grant Young
*Denotes debuted for Kiwis from the Warriors **Chosen in 2011 Four Nations tour squad and credited as Kiwi international, but did not play a match

Impressively, 48 of the Warriors’ New Zealand reps made their international debut from the club. Of the remainder, eight were part of the fledgling club’s 1995 recruitment drive – it’s not all that often since that the Warriors have splashed out on Kiwis from other clubs.

The Auckland Warriors’ line-up for their maiden premiership match in ’95 contained a staggering 12 New Zealand internationals, but Dean Bell, Whetu Taewa, Gavin Hill, Duane Mann, Se’e Solomona and Jason Mackie did not don the black-and-white jersey while at the club.

Sean Hoppe, Hitro Okesene, Gene Ngamu, Stephen Kearney, Tony Tatupu and Tea Ropati continued representing the Kiwis, Tony Tuimavave debuted that year, Greg Alexander was an Australian rep, Phil Blake played Origin for NSW and Manoa Thompson represented Fiji. Former Junior Kiwi Martin Moana was the odd man out in the Auckland 17.

Of the other players who would turn out for the Warriors in 1995, Syd Eru (who supplanted Mann at club and Test level) and Stacey Jones debuted for the Kiwis that year, while Logan Edwards and Richie Blackmore resumed their international careers.

Mann came within an ace of captaining Tonga to a boilover against a New Zealand side boasting seven of his clubmates at the end-of-year World Cup.

The Warriors contributed 10 players to New Zealand’s 3-0 series cleansweep of Great Britain at the end of 1996, including Test newcomers Marc Ellis, Logan Swann, Anthony Swann and Joe Vagana. Meanwhile, Matthew Ridge and Grant Young joined the club the following season, and Denis Betts was in the Great Britain side.

Early in 1997, Kearney – who first skippered the Kiwis in ’93 while at Western Suburbs – became the Warriors’ first Test captain in the Anzac Test against Super League Australia with Ridge sidelined.

The club also fielded 10 players in the New Zealand Super League Tri-Series competition, which was not regarded as a fully-fledged Kiwis team. Of that group, only Brady Malam never earned full international honours. Warriors players who featured in New Zealand’s victorious 1996-97 Super League World Nines squads but were destined not to become Test players were John Kirwan, Mark Carter and Shane Endacott.

But the Kiwis Test team – coached by Frank Endacott, who took over as Warriors head coach midway through 1997 – had eight players in their starting line-up as they swamped Super League Australia 30-12 a week after the grand final, including captain Ridge.

Endacott again had eight of his club charges (including debutant Nigel Vagana and recruits Quentin Pongia and Kevin Iro) for an even more iconic triumph: the 22-16 boilover against a full-strength Australian side at North Harbour in early-1998.

Pongia’s one-season stay in Auckland included a series win in Great Britain as captain, while he was named the 1998 NZRL Player of the Year.

A modest five Warriors featured in the Kiwis’ 2000 World Cup squad, coached by Endacott (who was axed as Auckland coach at the end of 1998, with Mark Graham subsequently becoming the first former Kiwi to coach the Warriors), though four players from the club – Paul Whatuira, Clinton Toopi, Henry Perenara and Odell Manuel – were selected for the Aotearoa Maori side that competed at the tournament. Whatuira and Perenara went on to earn New Zealand Test honours from rival NRL teams.

Stacey Jones led the Kiwis for the first time in 2002 – a spirited loss to the Kangaroos and a drawn series in Great Britain – on his way to collecting the Golden Boot.

History-making Warriors coach Daniel Anderson took the Kiwis reins in 2003 and the club created a remarkable slice of history. Despite the unavailability of Jones, a record 11 players – including Test debutants Vinnie Anderson, Sione Faumuina and an 18-year-old Thomas Leuluai – featured in a stunning 30-16 victory over Australia, with Warriors centre Clinton Toopi scoring a hat-trick.

In that same match Warriors enforcer Richard Villasanti became the club’s first-ever Kangaroos rep. Villasanti remains the only player to debut for Australia from the Warriors.

Six Warriors starred in the Kiwis’ incredible 24-0 shutout of the Kangaroos in the 2005 Tri-Nations final at Elland Road, including captain Ruben Wiki, who became the first player ever to rack up 50 Tests, the France-bound Jones, Australian-born fullback star Brent Webb and 19-year-old two-try hero Manu Vatuvei, who won that year’s RLIF Rookie Of The Year award. The team was coached by future Warriors coach Brian ‘Bluey’ McClennan. A year earlier, Tony Kemp became the second former Kiwi to coach the Warriors.

Former Warriors Whatuira, Nigel Vagana, Motu Tony, Shontayne Hape and Ali Lauitiiti were also in the victorious 17.

Simon Mannering debuted for the Kiwis during the 2006 Tri-Nations, as did former Queensland Origin rep Nathan Fien, who qualified on the basis of having a New Zealand-born grandmother. But when it was revealed it was in fact Fien’s great grandmother who had been born in the Shaky Isles, the Kiwis were stripped of the points earned from a win over Great Britain and Fien was banned from the tournament. New Zealand reached the final, going down to Australia in a golden point epic in Wiki’s farewell Test appearance.

Six Warriors embarked on the disastrous Gary Kemble-coached 2007 tour of Britain and France – which was preceded by a record 58-0 loss to Australia – but there was a highlight amidst the gloom in the form of the All Golds combination’s clash with a Northern Union selection.

Marking 100 years since New Zealand’s trailblazing tour of Britain, the Wayne Bennett-coached All Golds featured three current Warriors: Captain Ruben Wiki, young forwards Louis Anderson and Epalahame Lauaki, and Kangaroos front-rower Steve Price, who was invited to reprise the guest player role Dally Messenger performed on the 1907-08 trip.

Former Warriors Jones, Vagana, Toopi, Leuluai, Lauitiiti and Awen Guttenbeil also played in the 25-18 win.

New Zealand’s 2008 World Cup squad – coached by foundation Warrior and future coach of the club Stephen Kearney – contained seven Warriors, with Lance Hohaia, Simon Mannering, Jerome Ropati, Nathan Fien and Vatuvei all playing key roles in the watershed 34-20 defeat of Australia in the Brisbane final.

Hohaia – languishing in the reserve grade halves only 12 months earlier – was a two-try hero at fullback; Ropati bagged a vital first-half try; centre partner Mannering blotted out Australian danger-man Greg Inglis; the highlight of Vatuvei’s huge game was forcing Australian fullback Billy Slater into a infamous no-look pass that gifted a match-turning try to Benji Marshall; Nathan Fien – who returned to the black-and-white jumper pre-tournament after qualifying on residential grounds – categorically put the ‘Granny-gate’ furore behind him by playing a steady hand at halfback; and Rapira provided crucial muscle off the bench. Clubmate Tuimavave was also part of the Kiwis’ tournament squad – making his sole Test appearance in the pool defeat of England – former (and future) Warrior Thomas Leuluai featured at hooker. Steve Price and Brent Tate played all four games of the Kangaroos’ dominant run to the final before injury ruled them out.

Two years later Vatuvei was injured and Fien had joined St George Illawarra, leaving Hohaia, Mannering and Ben Matulino as the only Warriors in the Kiwis side as they again rolled the Kangaroos at Suncorp Stadium in the Four Nations final.

The Warriors’ contributed seven players to the Kiwis’ 2013 World Cup cause, including captain Mannering and Wembley semi-final hero Shaun Johnson.

They were joined in the devastating 34-2 loss to the Kangaroos in the final by clubmates Kevin Locke, Elijah Taylor, Vatuvei and Matulino, with Leuluai ruled out by injury earlier in the tournament.

An injury-ravaged Kiwis side for the 2014 Anzac Test contained several bolters, including young Warriors Siliva Havili – who had just three NRL appearances to his name – and Ben Henry. The courageous 30-18 loss would be the only New Zealand Test outing for Havili, Henry and former Warriors playmaker Isaac John.

Golden Boot winner Johnson was at his mercurial best as New Zealand took out the 2014 Four Nations crown, joined in the squad by fellow Warriors Mannering, Vatuvei, Leuluai and newcomer Suaia Matagi.

But with Johnson on the sidelines with a broken ankle and several other players making themselves unavailable, only two Warriors – Matulino and Test rookie Tuimoala Lolohea – were on the plane to England at the end of 2015 for the Kiwis’ three-Test tour.

Johnson returned for the 2016 Four Nations with recruit Issac Luke, the departing Leuluai, and international rookies Solomone Kata and David Fusitu’a.

But the latter pair aligned with Mate Ma’a Tonga ahead of the 2017 World Cup, while Luke was left out after a subpar campaign at club level. That left just Johnson, Mannering and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck making up the Warriors contingent in the Kiwis’ squad for their ill-fated campaign.

The Tongan line-up that stunned the Kiwis in a historic result in Hamilton boasted six current or former Warriors, while another three were in the surging island nation’s squad.

Recruits Adam Blair and Peta Hiku resumed their international tenures during 2018, while Samoa reps Ken Maumalo and Isaiah Papali’i made their New Zealand Test debuts. Gerard Beale and Agnatius Paasi were selected for the tour of England but were not used.

Off-season buy Leeson Ah Mau and mid-season arrival Kodi Nikorima took the Warriors’ tally of Kiwi reps to 70 in 2019. Tuivasa-Sheck, who missed the entire 2018 international schedule with family commitments and injury, and Maumalo were the club’s only other reps. The departed Johnson made a triumphant two-try return to Mt Smart Stadium in New Zealand’s mid-season win over Tonga and unwanted utility-back Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, a 2019 sensation at Canberra, was called up to debut against Australia.

Tohu Harris, who played 16 Tests while at Melbourne, has been unavailable for Kiwis selection due to injury since arriving at the Warriors in 2018.

 

RECORD WARRIORS REPRESENTATION FOR KIWIS: 11 players v Australia, 2003 – Henry Fa’afili, Vinnie Anderson, Clinton Toopi, Francis Meli, Sione Faumuina, Motu Tony, Monty Betham, Thomas Leuluai, Awen Guttenbeil, Jerry Seuseu, Ali Lauitiiti

WARRIORS KIWIS CAPTAINS: Stephen Kearney, Matthew Ridge, Quentin Pongia, Stacey Jones, Ruben Wiki, Simon Mannering

WARRIORS KIWIS COACHES: Frank Endacott, Daniel Anderson

WARRIORS KIWI FERNS REPRESENTATIVES: Apii Nicholls, Langi Veainu, Masuisuimatamaalii Tauasa-Pauaraisa, Aieshaleigh Smalley, Onjeurlina Leiataua, Laura Mariu, Georgia Hale, Annetta Nuuausala, Amber Kani, Georgia Hale, Honey Hireme, Atawhai Tupaea, Jules Newman, Charntay Poko, Krystal Rota, Crystal Tamarua, Billy Jean Ale, Hilda Mariu, Kathleen Wharton

 

MOST TEST APPEARANCES FOR NEW ZEALAND BY WARRIORS PLAYERS
45 – Simon Mannering
40 – Stacey Jones (46 in total)
29 – Shaun Johnson (32 in total)
28 – Manu Vatuvei
28 – Lance Hohaia
26 – Logan Swann (29 in total)
25 – Joe Vagana
23 – Ben Matulino
22 – Sean Hoppe (35 in total)
19 – Stephen Kearney (45 in total)
19 – Clinton Toopi (22 in total)
18 – Louis Anderson
18 – Syd Eru
17 – Gene Ngamu (23 in total)
16 – Thomas Leuluai (40 in total)
16 – Brent Webb (17 in total)

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