THIS DAY IN WARRIORS HISTORY: TRAGIC AFTERMATH TO SEASON-OPENING UPSET

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FEBRUARY 6, 2000

To accommodate the Sydney Olympics’ mid-September start, the 2000 NRL premiership commenced on February 5 – the earliest start date in history. The following day, the Auckland Warriors faced a daunting first-up assignment against defending premiers Melbourne Storm.

The optimism garnered from the Mark Graham-coached Warriors blistering finish to 1999 was countered by linchpin Stacey Jones’ early-season absence with a broken arm and pressing issues that were threatening to bubble over behind the scenes. Graham Lowe and Malcolm Boyle’s relationship with Graham and CEO Trevor McKewen had broken down, and their association with co-owners Tainui was heading down the same path at a rate of knots – particularly after ally Jeff Green, the Tainui-appointed chairman, was ousted. Further compounding tensions, Tainui were running into unrelated financial problems, which ramped up the pressure on their foundering investment in the Warriors.

Everything appeared salvageable on and off the field, however, after the Warriors stunned the Storm 14-6 in front of a 20,546-strong crowd – including Prime Minister Helen Clark, a long-time patron of the Mt Albert club – at Ericsson Stadium.

The Warriors grafted their way to a 10-2 halftime lead through tries to forwards Logan Swann and Tony Tuimavave, the latter after a thrilling chip-and-regather from swift-heeled wing recruit Scott Pethybridge before man-of-the-match and reigning club Player of the Year Jason Death extended the advantage in the 52nd minute with a four-pointer.

The Waitangi Day upset result was a war of attrition for the hosts, who lost Ivan Cleary (concussion) – who was making his first appearance for the Warriors – Lee Oudenryn (broken nose), Jerry Seuesu (concussion) and Scott Coxon (head wound). But a Storm side containing eight internationals could not find the tryline until five-eighth Scott Hill dotted down in the 68th minute.

But the Warriors would go winless in their next six matches and limped to a second-last finish amid a terrible injury toll and rampant off-field uncertainty.

Meanwhile, in a harrowing post-script to the season-opening assignment, Storm team manager Michael Moore drowned after jumping into the water at Auckland’s Princes Wharf during a night out following the match.

The 35-year-old was a much-loved member of the tight-knit Storm organisation and his tragic death shattered the club.

“He was passionate about rugby league and a really decent man. It makes the start of the football season seem so insignificant now,” said TV commentator Graeme Hughes, who had been sitting at the same table as Moore at Euro restaurant and witnessed the accident.

Moore had earlier played for BRL clubs Brothers and Souths, and was part of the Broncos’ strength and conditioning program.

The Warriors and Storm have played for the Michael Moore Trophy ever since, while Melbourne’s Clubman of the Year award was also named in his honour.

Michael Moore was survived by his wife Tracey, and children Meg, Harry, and Georgia.

The Storm have held the Michael Moore Trophy since 2016, winning the last 11 clashes between the archrivals.

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Categories: FEATURES, This Day In Warriors History

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