Thomas Leuluai was an NRL rookie when the Vodafone Warriors had their first and only previous clash against St George Illawarra at WIN Jubilee Oval (historically regarded as Kogarah Oval).
And in this, the club’s 20th season in the competition, it remains the only win so far over the Dragons on Australian soil. Of the 11 away matches played against them the remaining 10 have all been in Wollongong.
It was late in the 2003 regular season – round 22 – when the Vodafone Warriors last ventured onto the Kogarah ground as they set about clinching a spot in the finals for the third year running.
Leuluai, then 18, started at standoff outside Lance Hohaia in a match the side had to win to maintain its quest for a solid finish ahead of the finals.
Playing into what was described as a howling gale, the Vodafone Warriors were on fire in the first 40 minutes. They went to the break 20-6 ahead with Richard Villasanti, Hohaia and Leuluai all scoring early to open up a 16-6 advantage before winger John Carlaw snaffled an intercept to go 90 metres to score.
The roles were reversed in the second half, the Dragons coming back to trail 16-20 before the Vodafone Warriors lifted their effort again with tries coming for Ali Lauitiiti and Brent Webb to take the Vodafone Warriors out to a 30-16 lead inside the final few minutes. There was time only for a Dragons consolation effort.
Included in the St George Illawarra side was the only other survivor for tomorrow’s match – a young Ben Creagh, who was then on the wing. Also playing for the Dragons was former Vodafone Warrior Henry Perenara, now an NRL referee.
In the pre-St George Illawarra days the Vodafone Warriors played the original St George club four times, losing twice at Kogarah Oval and having a win and a loss at Mount Smart Stadium.
In 21 matches against St George Illawarra, the Vodafone Warriors have won three and lost seven in Auckland while winning one and losing 10 on Australian soil.
August 10, 2003
Kogarah Oval, Sydney
St George Illawarra Dragons 20 (Brett Firman, Matt Cooper, Michael Howell, Nathan Blacklock tries; Mark Riddell 2 conversions).
Vodafone Warriors 30 (Richard Villasanti, Lance Hohaia, Thomas Leuluai, John Carlaw, Ali Lauitiiti, Brent Webb tries; Lance Hohaia 3 conversions).
Halftime: 20-6 Vodafone Warriors.
Referee: Bill Harrigan.
St George Illawarra Dragons | Nathan Blacklock; Ben Creagh, David Howell, Matt Cooper, John Wilshere; Ben Hornby, Brett Firman; Chris Leikvoll, Mark Riddell, Ian Donnelly; Luke Bailey, Lance Thompson; Henry Perenara. Interchange: Brent Kite, Michaell Howell, Dean Young, Craig Stapleton.
Coach: Nathan Brown.
Vodafone Warriors: Brent Webb; John Carlaw, Vinnie Anderson, Clinton Toopi, Francis Meli; Thomas Leuluai, Lance Hohaia; Jerry Seuseu, Monty Betham (c), Richard Villasanti; Ali Lauitiiti, Awen Guttenbeil; Logan Swann. Interchange: Wairangi Koopu, Sione Faumuina, Justin Murphy, Karl Temata.
Coach: Daniel Anderson.