While clashes with Brisbane will always understandably hold traditional significance for the Vodafone Warriors it can readily be argued the club has no rivalry which quite matches the one it now has with Melbourne.
Establishing an Anzac Day set piece has helped. It’s a contest so eagerly-anticipated on both sides of the Tasman, the sixth edition tomorrow (6.00pm kick-off local time, 8.00pm NZT) set to draw the biggest crowd yet with some reports indicating a likely sell out for the 30,000-seater AAMI Park.
There has been any number of epic clashes through the years in both Auckland and Melbourne since the Storm entered the competition in 1998, two of them Anzac Day affairs. The first at Olympic Park ended a 14-14 draw after extra time while in 2011 the Vodafone Warriors toughed it out to win 18-14. No one of Vodafone Warriors persuasion can ever forget the utterly remarkable finals wins in Melbourne in 2008 and 2011; the 24-20 success in 2006 was just as spectacular and in 2002 the Vodafone Warriors were 28-12 winners.
In 33 matches between the two clubs, the Vodafone Warriors have won an impressive 14 with two matches drawn; only Canterbury-Bankstown has beaten Melbourne more times, registering its 17 win this season in 33 contests between the two.
Six of the Vodafone Warriors’ 14 wins over the Storm have come in Melbourne, the first of them providing one of the all-time amazing finishes when the then-Auckland Warriors plucked a try from the skies to win 24-21, the final siren sounding during the prolonged and frantic lead-up to the match-winner.
Among the winning side then were Nigel Vagana, Gene Ngamu, Stacey Jones, Joe Vagana, Quentin Pongia, Logan Swann, Awen Guttenbeil, Tea Ropati, Jerry Seuseu and Tony Tatapu.
Melbourne’s line-up included future Vodafone Warriors Tony Martin and John Carlaw, Kiwi great Tawera Nikau and future Kiwi internationals Richard Swain and Matt Rua.
At Olympic Park, Melbourne
Melbourne Storm 21 (Tawera Nikau, Scott Hill, Tony Martin, Robbie Ross tries; Craig Smith 2 conversions; Brett Kimmorley field goal).
Auckland Warriors 24 (Joe Galuvao, Syd Eru, Gene Ngamu, Tony Tatupu tries; Gene Ngamu 3 conversions, penalty).
Halftime: 14-4 Auckland Warriors.
Referee: Mogsheen Jadwat.
Vodafone Warriors | Joe Galuvao; Paul Staladi, Anthony Swann, Nigel Vagana, Lee Oudenryn; Gene Ngamu, Stacey Jones; Joe Vagana, Syd Eru, Quentin Pongia; Logan Swann, Awen Guttenbeil; Tea Ropati. Interchange: Shane Endacott, Brady Malam, Jerry Seuseu, Tony Tatupu.
Melbourne Storm | Robbie Ross; Craig Smith, Tony Martin, Aaron Moule, Marcus Bai; Scott Hill, Brett Kimmorley; Glenn Lazarus, Richard Swain, Robbie Kearns; Paul Marquet, Ben Roarty; Tawera Nikau. Interchange: Matt Rua, John Carlaw, Russell Bawden, Wayne Evans.