Vodafone Warriors players across the club’s NRL, New South Wales and NYC squads will have reason to pause to remember where the game started for them as the junior rugby league community is celebrated with this week’s PlayNRL Round.
The Vodafone Warriors will play their part in the promotion when they stage a tripleheader at Mount Smart Stadium tomorrow to launch their home programme in their 20th anniversary season.
The schedule will start with the Vodafone Junior Warriors facing the Parramatta Eels (12.45pm kick-off), followed by the club’s NSW Cup side meeting Wentworthville (2.45pm) and then the third-round NRL clash between the Vodafone Warriors and the Eels (5.00pm).
The core purpose of the round is to promote grass roots rugby league and encourage children and families to get involved in the game.
There will be a junior rugby league flavour across the Vodafone Warriors’ game day activities.
One feature will be a dedicated area in the West Stand set aside for more than 1500 members from Auckland clubs, the tickets provided by the Vodafone Warriors and the NRL with support from the Akarana and Counties Manukau zones.
The popular mini mod games will involve Hibiscus Coast, Otahuhu, Northcote and Mangere East, four clubs which all have current players in the Vodafone Warriors’ three teams and can also point to others they have produced in the club’s first 20 years.
The players in the four mini mod teams will also have the special experience of providing a guard of honour as the Vodafone Warriors emerge from the East Stand tunnel for the main game.
There will also be regular in-game promotion including big screen messages promoting junior links. The theme brings into focus the small beginnings for the players who now wear the Vodafone Warriors’ colours at NRL, NSW Cup and NYC level.
The NRL squad members and those who have appeared for NSW Cup and NYC sides in the first two rounds of the season can trace their origins to a collection of more than 30 clubs spread throughout New Zealand, New South Wales and Queensland plus England in Sam Tomkins’ case (Wigan St Patrick’s).
Only two clubs can claim to have more than one former junior player turning out for the Vodafone Warriors’ NRL side tomorrow – the Otara Scorpions with veteran wing Manu Vatuvei and rookie prop Sam Lisone as well as the Te Aroha Eels in Lower Hutt who boast Ben Matulino and captain Simon Mannering, although Mannering’s links were brief.
Otara can also claim 2014 Kiwi hooker Siliva Havili as well as the legendary Ruben Wiki, an 87-game Vodafone Warrior now on the club’s football staff.
The Mangere East Hawks have been the most prolific producer of players currently involved with the three teams.
Here’s a breakdown of the players’ junior clubs (in a few instances players lay claim to two clubs):
Bay Roskill Vikings | Ben Henry, Sione Lousi
Campbelltown Collegians | Ryan Hoffman
Ellerslie Eagles | Glen Fisiiahi
Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School | Matt Allwood
Feilding Falcons | Ngani Laumape
Glenora Bears | Amoni Tufui, Nathaniel Peteru
Hibiscus Coast Raiders | Shaun Johnson
Howick Hornets | Solomone Kata, Marata Niukore
Hukanui | Sam Rapira
Mangere East Hawks | Sebastine Ikahihifo, Tamati Ioane-Niko, Viliami Kaveinga, Stedman Lefau, Ofahiki Ogden, Dominique Peyroux, Upu Poching, Jarrod Tua, Paul Tuli, Semisi Tyrell, Albert Vete
Manurewa Marlins | Erin Clark
Marist Saints | David Fusitu’a, Mason Lino, Tuimoala Lolohea
Mount Albert Lions | Konrad Hurrell, Suaia Matagi, Nathaniel Roache, Zac Tippins
Northcote Tigers | David Bhana, Sam Cook
Northern Bulldogs | Sheldon Pitama
Northern Lake Warriors | Jonathan Wright
Otahuhu Leopards | George Carmont, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Stedman Lefau, Dominique Peyroux, Wesley Tauti
Otara Scorpions | Siliva Havili, Sam Lisone, Willie Peace, Manu Vatuvei
Pacific Sharks | Isaiah Cooper-Tetevano
Pakuranga Jaguars | Brad Abbey, Tomas Aoake, Ata Hingano, Herman Retzlaff
Papakura Sea Eagles | James Bell, Jazz Tevaga, Roman Tuhimata
Papatoetoe Panthers | Thomas Leuluai, Ken Maumalo
Point Chevalier Pirates | Bunty Afoa, Erin Clark, Tualima Tualima
Porirua Vikings | Paul Ulberg
Richmond Rovers | Brad Abbey, Tomas Aoake, Sione Lousi, Daniel Palavi, John Palavi, Toafofoa Sipley, Saula Solomona
Richmond Tigers | Jacob Lillyman
Taupo Phoenix | Matiu Love-Henry
Tauranga Sharks | Bodene Thompson
Te Atatu Roosters | Suaia Matagi
Te Aroha Eels | Simon Mannering, Ben Matulino, Api Pewhairangi
University Hunters | Charlie Gubb
Yarrawarrah Tigers | Chad Townsend
Wests Juniors | Nathan Friend
Wigan St Patrick’s | Sam Tomkins