Tomorrow’s NYC grand final will be extra-special for 11 Vodafone Junior Warriors but it will arguably have added significance for two of the group halfback Mason Lino and Kouma Samson.
For them the ANZ Stadium showdown against Brisbane not only ends their time in the NYC but it will also double as their last for the club – at least for now – before leaving for Europe later this month to take up one-year contracts with AS Carcassonne in the French championship.
The other nine members in tomorrow’s grand final squad also preparing for their NYC finales are wingers Ngataua Hukatai and Metia Lisati, centre Solomone Kata, prop Sam Lisone, hooker Kurt Robinson, back Michael Ki and Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard and interchange players James Bell and Ken Maumalo.
While Lino and Samson are about to embark on an exciting next phase of their rugby league careers it’s not on their radar this week. They have eyes for only one prize.
“The brotherhood of our team is that we love each other,” said Samson.
“When we’re on the field we play for each other and we don’t want to let each other down.
“If I could win a grand final with this team it would be absolutely amazing. Making the grand final has been amazing but if we win that will just take it to the next level.
“I’ll remember the boys for life and I’m definitely going to miss this team. This has been my favourite year at the Vodafone Warriors and if we win the grand final I’ll just be speechless.”
A Glenora Bears junior and educated at Green Bay High School, Samson (20) made his NYC debut in 2012 before establishing himself last season. The team’s 28th match of the campaign tomorrow will be his 23rd this year and the 41st of his career
Mason, also 20, attended Avondale College and started playing rugby league with the Marist Saints before coming into the Vodafone Warriors’ development system.
He, too, started his NYC career in 2012 but has been a regular every season to the point he makes his 62nd NYC appearance tomorrow placing him third on the club’s all-time list behind Ben Henry (64) and John Palavi (63).
He went past 200 points for the season with his 13 points in the 29-26 last-gasp win against Parramatta last week and also snared the record for most goals in an NYC career. He has 213 now and goes into the grand final just seven points off becoming only the second player in the NYC’s seven-year history to reach 500 career points (North Queensland’s Kyle Feldt has the points-scoring record with 570).
All that matters to him is doing what it takes to help the Vodafone Junior Warriors to a third premiership in what is their fourth grand final in five years. This is the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ 20th finals game since the competition began; they’ve won 14 of the 19 they’ve played so far.
For Lino and Samson French lessons are on hold. There’s far more important business to take care of first.
- Live coverage of the Vodafone Juniors Warriors v Brisbane Broncos grand final starts on SKY Sport 2 at 3.50pm NZT on Sunday.
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS – NYC FINALS RECORD
2008 St George Illawarra Won 47-20
Penrith Won 38-4
Brisbane Lost 26-28
2009 St George Illawarra Lost 24-48
2010 Manly Won 25-22
Canterbury-Bankstown Won 23-16
South Sydney Won 42-28 (grand final)
2011 Newcastle Won 54-6
Canterbury-Bankstown Won 64-0
North Queensland Won 31-30 (grand final)
2012 Canberra Lost 38-39
Sydney Roosters Lost 10-26
2013 South Sydney Won 20-18
Sydney Roosters Won 58-6
Canterbury-Bankstown Won 54-38
Penrith Lost 30-42 (grand final)
2014 Sydney Roosters Won 44-30
Newcastle Won 23-16
Parramatta Won 29-26