The Auckland Warriors endured their troubles against the St George Dragons and Illawarra Steelers early in the club’s existence – and that was only exacerbated by the St George Illawarra Dragons merger in 1999. The Warriors’ success rate against the joint venture is their worst against any current club, including an away losing streak that lasted 15 years.
Overall record: Played 34 – St George Illawarra won 24, Warriors won 10; St George Illawarra scored 803 points, Warriors scored 561 points.
Biggest wins: St George Illawarra – 54-0 at WIN Stadium, 2000; Warriors – 34-6 at Mt Smart Stadium in 2001 and 44-16 at Mt Smart Stadium in 2007.
Longest winning streaks: St George Illawarra – 11 matches (2008-15); Warriors – 5 matches (2018-21).
Most appearances: Ben Creagh (St George Illawarra) – 16; Simon Mannering (Warriors) – 15; Jason Nightingale (St George Illawarra) – 15; Matt Cooper (St George Illawarra) – 14; Ben Hornby (St George Illawarra) – 14; Leeson Ah Mau (Warriors and St George Illawarra) – 13; Jack de Belin (St George Illawarra) – 12; Jacob Lillyman (Warriors) – 12; Shaun Johnson (Warriors) – 11; Ben Matulino (Warriors) – 11; Manu Vatuvei (Warriors) – 11.
Most tries: Matt Cooper (St George Illawarra) – 11; Nathan Blacklock (St George Illawarra) – 10; Jason Nightingale (St George Illawarra) – 8; Brett Morris (St George Illawarra) – 5; Mark Gasnier (St George Illawarra) – 4; Simon Mannering (Warriors) – 4; Mikaele Ravalawa (St George Illawarra) – 4; Brent Webb (Warriors) – 4.
Most points: Jamie Soward (St George Illawarra) – 64; Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra) – 55; Shaun Johnson (Warriors) – 46; Matt Cooper (St George Illawarra) – 44; Nathan Blacklock (St George Illawarra) – 42; Zac Lomax (St George Illawarra) – 36; Jason Nightingale (St George Illawarra) – 32; Mark Gasnier (St George Illawarra) – 26; Mark Riddell (St George Illawarra) – 26; Amos Roberts (St George Illawarra) – 26.
1995-98 – Steelers, Dragons prove tough opposition for Auckland Warriors
After the euphoria of the Auckland Warriors’ narrow loss to Brisbane in their inaugural premiership match, Illawarra provided the premiership newcomers with a harsh lesson of how tough the week-to-week grind of the competition would be with a 40-28 victory in Wollongong in the club’s first-ever away match. The Warriors would go on to win the next three between the two clubs, but the Steelers scored a 17-14 upset at Mt Smart that derailed the Auckland side’s mid-season revival in 1998.
St George proved a similar speedbump in 1995, with Gorden Tallis running riot at Mt Smart in a 47-14 thumping that ended the Warriors’ six-match winning streak, a result that proved crucial to the club missing out on the finals on for-and-against in its maiden campaign. Similarly demoralising losses followed for the Warriors in 1996 and ’98, before Auckland powered to a 31-14 win – the club’s first against the Red V – midway through the latter season.
1999-2007 – St George Illawarra put Warriors to the sword
The Auckland Warriors won their maiden clash with the merged St George Illawarra Dragons, scoring six tries to three in a 32-18 thrashing of the eventual grand finalists in Round 23 of the 1999 season.
But the Saints exacted some Mount Smart revenge with a 36-8 victory early in 2000, before inflicting the biggest loss of the Warriors’ first 18 seasons.
A week after conceding 50 points to unfancied North Queensland, St George Illawarra routed Auckland 54-0 at WIN Stadium in one of the great turnarounds, with Amos Roberts scoring a premiership record 22 points on first-grade debut. Nathan Blacklock bagged a hat-trick, taking his tally to 10 tries in five games against the Warriors.
The Warriors’ surge to a maiden finals berth in 2001 included an early-season season 34-6 smacking of the Dragons at home, which the Saints reversed via a 38-18 result in Wollongong later that season – including another Blacklock double.
The Warriors grabbed their first (and so far, only) win at Kogarah Oval in 2003, 30-20, but four straight Dragons wins – three of them at WIN Stadium – followed. A 44-16 success in Auckland in 2007, featuring a double from centre Simon Mannering and eight-from-eight from Michael Witt’s boot, would be the Warriors’ last favourable result in the rivalry for nine years.
2008-13 – Warriors’ Wollongong woes continue
The Warriors’ 11-match losing streak against St George Illawarra began fittingly enough, with Matt Cooper and Josh Morris scoring two tries apiece in a 34-6 drubbing in Wollongong late in the 2008 season.
The injury-ravaged Saints scored a courageous 12-11 result at WIN Stadium in 2009, before sweeping to three straight wins in Auckland (2009-11) then notching a hat-trick of victories in Wollongong (2011-13).
The teams produced arguably their finest encounter at WIN Stadium in the penultimate round of 2011. The Warriors led 16-10 at the break, before the hosts ran in a pair unanswered tries to hit the front 24-16. Rookie halfback Shaun Johnson laid on a try for Feleti Mateo to set up a grandstand finish, but the Dragons held on for a nerve-shredding 26-22 win.
It would be the sixth-placed Warriors, though, that went on to reach the grand final five weeks later, while the fifth-placed Saints made a week two exit from the playoffs.
2014-16 – The drought is broken
Aiming to bounce back from a dismal season-opening display against Parramatta, the Warriors’ hoodoo against the joint venture continued courtesy of a 31-12 loss to a Gareth Widdop-inspired Dragons outfit at Eden Park in Round 2 of 2014.
In caretaker-coach Andrew McFadden’s first road trip in charge just five weeks later, the Warriors showed plenty of spirit at Kogarah Oval, but they still went down 20-10 – a loss that preceded a run of seven wins in nine matches for the resurgent side.
But another alternate NZ venue proved a graveyard for the injury-stricken Warriors in their rivalry with the Dragons, who romped to a 36-0 win at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium late in the 2015 campaign.
The Warriors ended the Saints hex in style in 2016, however, despite a midweek incident that saw several of the team’s first-choice players demoted to InTrust Super Premiership duty.
With Toafofoa Sipley making his first-grade debut off the bench and lock John Palavi playing his first NRL game since the loss to the Dragons at Eden Park more than two years earlier, the Warriors carved out a gutsy 26-10 victory. Shaun Johnson racked up 14 points, while fullback David Fusitu’a scooped man of the match honours.
Normal transmission resumed in 2017 as the Warriors saved two of their worst performances of the season for the Saints.
A butter-fingered display underpinned a 26-12 loss at Kogarah in Round 4, while defensive incompetence was the feature of a 30-14 defeat in Hamilton six weeks later – the Dragons’ 13th victory in 14 encounters against the Warriors.
Despite the absence of Shaun Johnson, the Warriors carved out one of the finest victories in the club’s history in Round 7 of 2018, a 20-12 win over the previously undefeated Saints. Issac Luke was on fire, while stand-ins Mason Lino and Anthony Gelling also starred in the upset.
— This Warriors Life (@thiswarriorslyf) April 20, 2018
The Warriors pulled off an equally momentous victory in Round 21 that season, snapping a Wollongong drought that stretched back to 1996.
Solomone Kata bagged a first-half double, while a heroic defensive performance in the second stanza closed out a courageous 18-12 win.
The Warriors continued their rivalry turnaround with one of their best wins of 2019, overturning a 12-point halftime deficit to defeat the Saints 30-18 at Suncorp Stadium during Magic Round.
Kodi Nikorima shone on club debut at five-eighth, while Peta Hiku finished with a double and winger Ken Maumalo capped a blinding performance with a four-pointer.
The Warriors extended their winning streak against their bogey team to five matches with a pair of extraordinary, stirring victories during the COVID-ravaged 2020-21 seasons.
In the heavily impacted club’s first match after the 2020 premiership’s resumption, the Warriors shut out the Saints 18-0 in Gosford with an astonishing 95 percent completion rate after going mistake-free for the first 75 minutes.
Incredibly, the following season at Kogarah a Roger Tuivasa-Sheck-inspired Warriors side completed 40 of 41 sets on their way to a gritty 20-14 triumph.
But the Dragons regained the ascendancy later in 2021, Corey Norman booting them to a 19-18 golden point win after rookie Warriors winger Ed Kosi’s late-game meltdown piggybacked the Red V from 18-6 down with 10 minutes left to level pegging.
The Saints won both 2022 encounters – an entertaining 28-16 result in Round 1 on the Sunshine Coast with Miakaele Ravalawa bagging a hat-trick and a 24-18 win in Sydney as Adam Pompey’s absolute shocker negated a two-try effort from fellow Warriors centre Viliami Vailea.
THEY PLAYED FOR BOTH CLUBS
Quentin Pongia: Canterbury (NZ) via West Coast prop Quentin Pongia became a Kiwis Test staple from 1992 and won a premiership with Canberra two years later. The enforcer spent the 1998 NRL season with the Auckland Warriors – playing 14 games – before stints with Sydney Roosters, and French clubs Chaitillon and Villeneuve. A return to Australia was short-lived, making just two appearances for St George Illawarra in 2003, before finishing his career at Wigan. Pongia tragically passed away in 2019 after a battle with cancer, aged just 48.
John Carlaw: Newcastle junior Carlaw earned his first-grade spurs with the short-lived Hunter Mariners, before playing 24 of the Storm’s 27 games in the club’s stunning 1998 debut season. The centre/winger had stints with Balmain and Wests Tigers before a career-best two-season stay with the Warriors, playing in the 2002 grand final amongst 35 appearances for the Auckland side. Carlaw finished his NRL tenure with 15 appearances for St George Illawarra in 2004, reaching the milestone of 150 career games.
Henry Perenara: Auckland-born Perenara debuted for the Warriors a week after his 18th birthday, playing three top-grade games in 2000. He then moved to Melbourne for two seasons, before stints with the Dragons – where he played 16 games in 2003-04 – Eels and Sharks. Perenara has been an NRL referee since 2011.
Michael Witt: Toowoomba product Witt started his NRL career with two-season stints at Parramatta and Manly, before an eventful stay with the Warriors in 2007-08. The five-eighth scored 291 points in 43 games for the club, including 121 goals for the club at a phenomenal 87.6 per cent, while he also scored the unforgettable match-winning try in the ’08 qualifying final upset of the Storm. After a brief flirtation with rugby union in Otago, Witt played four seasons in Super League before making four NRL appearances with St George Illawarra in 2014.
Nathan Fien: Mt Isa-born Fien represented the Queensland Origin side in 2001 during his five seasons with the Cowboys before linking with the Warriors in 2005. The half/hooker played 105 games for the Auckland club and made the first of 20 Test appearances for the Kiwis in 2006. After featuring in the Warriors’ 2007-08 finals campaigns, Fien was released to St George Illawarra midway through ’09. The utility’s five-season, 80-game stay with the joint venture included a premiership ring as part of the Dragons’ 2010 grand final-winning side.
Jeremy Latimore: Ex-Parramatta forward Latimore was a handy contributor in 24 games for the Warriors in 2010-11, before playing 14 games for St George Illawarra in 2012. The likeable front-rower subsequently spent four years at Penrith – playing 75 NRL games – and was snapped up by defending premiers Cronulla for 2017, before rejoining the Dragons this year. Latimore has played 43 games in 2018-19 in a Saints side laced with rep forwards.
Leeson Ah Mau: Otahuhu Leopards junior Ah Mau made two NRL appearances as a 19-year-old during the Warriors’ 2009 campaign. He was signed by the Cowboys and played a further 33 games in 2010-11, but eventually found his niche at St George Illawarra. Ah Mau has played 137 games for the Dragons – missing just five games in the past five seasons – and has turned out for Samoa in 15 Tests after debuting in 2013. Midway through 2018, however, he signed a deal to return to the Warriors at the end of the year, and played 26 straight games for the club before succumbing to a long-term knee injury prior to the 2020 season’s restart. He played another 18 games in 2021 before hanging up the boots on a 223-match career.
Dane Nielsen: Former Queensland Origin centre and Melbourne premiership winner Nielsen played 30 games for the Warriors in 2013-14, but his stint with St George Illawarra in 2015 garnered just two first-grade outings. Nielsen has since spent time at Bradford and South Sydney.
Gerard Beale: Broncos and Kiwis utility-back Beale joined St George Illawarra for an injury-hampered stint in 2013-14. After winning a premiership at Cronulla in 2016, Beale linked with the Warriors in 2018 and played 32 games over three mixed seasons. He finished his 204-game career back at the Dragons with 10 appearances in 2021.
Siliva Havili: A member of the Warriors’ NYC grand final success of 2011 and a Tongan Test debutant two years later, Manurewa Marlins junior Siliva Havili played 14 NRL games for the Warriors in 2014-15. The utility, equally at home at hooker or lock, joined the Dragons and made 10 first-grade appearances in 2016. Not used in first grade in 2017, Havili snared a contract with Canberra after his stellar performances for Tonga at the World Cup, played a grand final with the club in 2019 and later joined Souths.
Sebastine Ikahihifo: Bruising forward Ikahihifo played at lock in the Warriors’ 2010-11 NYC grand final triumphs, before playing 39 first-grade games for the club over the ensuing four seasons. Ikahihifo signed with the Saints for 2016 but the Mangere East junior could not force his way into their NRL line-up.
Russell Packer: Levin Lions junior Packer made his NRL debut for the Warriors at just 18 years of age in 2008 and played 110 games for the club over six seasons. The burly enforcer was prominent in the Warriors’ charge to the 2011 grand final, after which he made two Test appearances for New Zealand. A shift to the Newcastle Knights ahead of the 2014 season was derailed by a jail term for an assault conviction, but a reformed Packer was picked up by St George Illawarra and after two seasons out of the NRL he played 22 of the Dragons’ 24 games in 2016. A Kiwis recall followed in 2017 before he linked with former Warriors coach Ivan Cleary at Wests Tigers in 2018.
Euan Aitken: A dependable, hard-running centre in 121 games for St George Illawarra from 2015-20, Aitken represented NSW Country and Scotland. He was picked up by the the Warriors in 2021 and made a successful switch to the second-row, claiming the club’s Player of the Year award in 2022. Aitken sought a compassionate release from the Warriors to link with the fledgling Dolphins in 2023.
Daniel Alvaro: A valuable contributor in six loan appearances for the Warriors in 2020, former Parramatta front-row stalwart Alvaro subsequently joined St George Illawarra in 2021 and turned out in 19 games for the joint venture before heading to France.
Poasa Faamausili: Another Warriors loan player, Auckland-born former Roosters forward Faamausili played four games for the COVID-affected club in 2020. He played 11 NRL games for St George Illawarra in 2021 but was stuck in reserve grade the following season before joining premiership newcomers the Dolphins in 2023.
Freddy Lussick: Ex-Roosters hooker Lussick joined the Dragons midway through 2021 and made two NRL appearances for the club. He found a home at the Warriors in 2022, however, and has played 18 games as dummy-half understudy to Wayde Egan.
Jamayne Taunoa-Brown: Late-blooming, Melbourne-born prop Taunoa-Brown made his NRL debut for the Warriors as a 23-year-old in 2020 and was named the club’s Rookie of the Year. But he fell out of favour under Nathan Brown in 2021 and finished the year at St George Illawarra, making two appearances in the top flight. JTB linked with former Warriors coach Todd Payten at North Queensland in 2022.
Dunamis Lui: Former Brisbane and Manly forward spent the 2016 season with the Saints, playing 10 NRL games in an underwhelming stint. He resurrected his career at Canberra – playing all 27 games in their 2019 grand final season and representing Queensland in 2020 – before signing a mid-season deal with the Warriors in 2022, making four appearances.
Jackson Ford: Rugged back-rower Ford debuted for St George Illawarra in 2019 and played 33 NRL games across four seasons, but his career took off after a move to the Warriors in 2023. Ford immediately became a first-choice member of Andrew Webster’s pack and has played 12 games to date.
Ben Murdoch-Masila: Former Wests Tigers, Penrith, Salford and Warrington forward Murdoch-Masila joined the Warriors in 2021 but his two-season stay was heavily impacted by injuries, making just 27 top-grade appearances. The 32-year-old regouped at St George Illawarra, however, and has played 13 games for the club so far.