A 10-strong Vodafone Warriors party left Auckland today Samoa-bound on the club's their trailblazing eight-day community tour of the Pacific.
Led by chairman Bill Wavish, chief executive Wayne Scurrah and captain Simon Mannering, the Vodafone Warriors will be involved in a schools blitz on Thursday and a carnival on Friday.
The visit to Samoa, which has kicked off the NRL's annual community carnival, will see Mannering and Jerome Ropati plus legends Stacey Jones and Ruben Wiki at the forefront as they promote the Vodafone Warriors, the NRL and rugby league as a whole.
Five of the contingent including Mannering and Ropati will return to Auckland on Saturday with NRL team-mates Manu Vatuvei and Konrad Hurrell plus Vodafone Junior Warrior Albert Vete and general manager football operations Dean Bell heading to Tonga to link up with the others.
The Tonga leg of the trip will again provide an opportunity for hundreds of school pupils to meet the Vodafone Warriors during two more carnival events.
The Pacific initiative is a first for the Vodafone Warriors as they seek to promote the game in the two island nations.
We have such a strong affinity with both countries with so many of the clubs players past and present being of Samoan or Tongan extraction, said Scurrah.
This is an opportunity for us to give something back to these countries. Its also a chance to build interest in what is a huge year for rugby league with Samoa and Tonga both competing at the 2013 World Cup in the United Kingdom.
Scurrah said the trip to Samoa had become particularly significant.
Since we started planning the tour, the people of Samoa have suffered terribly through Cyclone Evan, he said.
"By visiting them we hope were able to provide some cheer after such a difficult time. We just want to do whatever we can to help to lift spirits.
While Mannering and Ropati will return home on February 2, the main Vodafone Warriors party will head directly to Tonga where they will be joined by Vatuvei, Hurrell, Vete and Bell.
Hurrell, born in the village of Tofoa, will be making another homecoming having made trips back to Tonga in the off-season and during the Christmas-New Year break; Auckland-born Vatuvei also visits family in Tonga whenever he can.
The Vodafone Warriors will also stage community carnival events around their NRL trials against Penrith in Hamilton on Saturday, February 16 (4.00pm kick-off) and Brisbane in Dunedin on Saturday, February 23 (7.30pm kick-off).