Mount Smart Stadium will host the biggest gathering of Vodafone Warriors players ever seen for the club’s 20th anniversary season Old Boys’ Day today (match day sponsor: Red Bull).
As the current crop of Vodafone Warriors had their final training session on Friday ahead of their 20th-round encounter with Manly, the advance guard of old boys began assembling for a special reunion over the weekend.
After the run the 2015 players mixed with a group of their predecessors over lunch. Among the latter were a number who had arrived from Australia for the programme of activities and festivities; former players of the year Jason Death (1999) and Robert Mears (2000) were there as was ex-captain John Simon (2000) plus Mark Horo, Grant Young, Aaron Whittaker, Scott Coxon, Justin Murphy and Sione Faumuina. Auckland-based ex-players there were ex-captains Stacey Jones and Monty Betham, Gavin Hill, Wairangi Koopu, Awen Guttenbeil, Francis Meli, Wade McKinnon, Jerry Seuseu, Duane Mann, Ruben Wiki and Jerome Ropati.
Young visited the club with his family last year while for Coxon, who made 12 appearances in 2000, this is a voyage of rediscovery, his first since leaving the club 15 years ago.
By the time all the old boys are reunited today their numbers could be up to the mid-40s with late arrivals. Add them together with the players in the 2015 NRL squad and 70-plus Vodafone Warriors past and present will be at Mount Smart Stadium, representing more than a third of the 201 players who have appeared for the club at first-grade level.
The football focus will be firmly fixed on another tripleheader programme of NYC (12.40pm), New South Wales Cup (2.40pm) and NRL (5.00pm) matches. The Vodafone Warriors have all three of their teams inside the top eight with the NSW Cup side leading its competition.
At the same time the old boys will provide the key theme running throughout the day, one celebrating its heritage in this landmark 20th anniversary season.
The former players will be based in the Red Bull tent in the D Zone, mingling with members and fans, appearing in lounges and being presented to the crowd before the NRL fixture.
Another highlight on the game day entertainment programme will be an acoustic performance by legendary Kiwi band Herbs.
There will be an emotional moment as the Vodafone Warriors enter the field from the East Stand tunnel with Kaytlen Tamatea running onto the field with captain Simon Mannering. Kaytlen’s father Corporal Luke Tamatea was killed in Afghanistan in 2012.
Old boys registered for this weekend are: #5 Whetu Taewa, #8 Gavin Hill, #9 Duane Mann, #12 Tony Tatupu, #13 Tony Tuimavave, #15Tea Ropati, #18 Joe Vagana, #24 Stacey Jones, #30 Mark Horo, #32 Nigel Vagana, #33 Awen Guttenbeil, #35 Iva Ropati, #36 Anthony Swann, #38 Bryan Henare, #41 Grant Young, #42 Logan Swann, #48 Aaron Whittaker, #50 Jerry Seuseu, #59 Jason Death, #61 Monty Betham, #62 Cliff Beverley, #64 Wairangi Koopu, #65 Francis Meli, #68 Robert Mears, #69 John Simon, #70 Boycie Nelson, #71 Talite Liavaa, #75 Scott Coxon, #76 Mark Tookey, #81 Henry Fa’afili, #89 Jason Temu, #92 Justin Murphy, #94 Anthony Seuseu, #96 PJ Marsh, #97 Brent Webb, #98 Sione Faumuina, #108 Jerome Ropati , #117 Herewini Rangi, #121 Steve Price, #123 Ruben Wiki, #132 Wade McKinnon.
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 GLEN FISIIAHI | After being off the NRL scene for close to 16 months, Fisiiahi makes his long-awaited return to the top grade. He scored seven tries in the first five rounds last season before his campaign was ended by a shoulder injury.
#2 SAM RAPIRA | In his final season with in the NRL, the veteran front rower makes his third appearance of the season and the 172nd of his career, providing valued experience on the bench. His last NRL match at home was against the Titans on Anzac Day.
#3 SAM TOMKINS | Set to return to Wigan at the end of the season, Tomkins is doing all he can to finish well in the NRL. The England international produced total commitment in the face of adversity against the Roosters last week.
#4 SOLOMONE KATA | The rugged centre kept looking for work in last week’s tough day out against the Roosters, finishing the game with 143 metres from 13 carries including seven tackle breaks. Kata remains the leading try-scorer with Manu Vatuvei on 11.
#5 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER | In his first 80-minute outing at NRL level last week, the Edgewater College old boy delivered a strong performance in the loss to the Roosters, making 153 metres from 14 runs and adding 31 tackles with just one miss.
TOP STATS | SUNDAY, JULY 19 v SYDNEY ROOSTERS | LOST 0-24
Penalties | Vodafone Warriors 4, Roosters 6.
Completions | Vodafone Warriors 24/34 (71%), Roosters 29/40 (73%).
Total runs | Vodafone Warriors 165, Roosters 191.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors 1533, Roosters 2086.
Dummy half runs (metres) | Vodafone Warriors 9 (102), Roosters 7 (32).
Line breaks | Vodafone Warriors 3, Roosters 7.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors 38, Roosters 37.
Kicks (kicking metres) | Vodafone Warriors 21 (646), Roosters 20 (432).
Tackles | Vodafone Warriors 354, Roosters 310.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors 37, Roosters 38.
Offloads | Vodafone Warriors 9, Roosters 16.
Errors | Vodafone Warriors 11, Roosters 10.
Runs | Raymond Faitala-Mariner 14, Jonathan Wright 14, Tuimoala Lolohea 14, Solomone Kata 13, Ben Matulino 13, Simon Mannering 12, Sam Tomkins 12, David Fusitu’a 10.
Metres gained | Raymond Faitala-Mariner 153, Solomone Kata 143, Jonathan Wright 126, Ben Matulino 121, Tuimoala Lolohea 113.
Tackle breaks | Tuimoala Lolohea 9, Sam Tomkins 7, Solomone Kata 7, Chad Townsend 4.
Off loads | Simon Mannering 4.
Tackles | Bodene Thompson 52, Simon Mannering 51, Nathan Friend 38, Raymond Faitala-Mariner 31, Ben Matulino 28, Jacob Lillyman 25, Albert Vete 22.
Missed Tackles | Sione Lousi 0.
RECORD | v MANLY
Overall | Played 26, Won 8, Lost 18.
Home | Played 12, Won 3, Lost 9.
150 NRL Games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 141st NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors.
150 NRL Tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 146 tries in 208 games.
50 NRL Tries | Shaun Johnson 44, Konrad Hurrell 39.
20th Anniversary | March 10, 2015 marked the 20th anniversary of the Vodafone Warriors making their debut in the competition against Brisbane on March 10, 1995.
50 NRL Games for Vodafone Warriors | Ben Henry made his 50th NRL appearance for the club on March 15 when he lined up against Canberra.
200 NRL Games | Nathan Friend made his 200th NRL appearance on March 21 when he lined up against Parramatta; it was his 65th game for the Vodafone Warriors after previously playing one game for Brisbane, 34 for Melbourne and 100 for Gold Coast.
200 NRL Games | Jacob Lillyman made his 200th NRL appearance on June 27 when he lined up against Canberra; it was his 138th game for the Vodafone Warriors after previously playing 62 games for North Queensland.
250 NRL Games | Ryan Hoffman made his 250th NRL appearance on April 6 when he lined up against his former club Melbourne; he played 245 games for Melbourne.
200 NRL Games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Manu Vatuvei made his 200th NRL appearance for the club against Wests Tigers on April 11; he is the third player to appear in 200 games for the Vodafone Warriors (the others being Stacey Jones and Simon Mannering).
10 NRL Seasons for Vodafone Warriors | When Sam Rapira made his 170th career appearance against the Titans on Anzac Day he became the seventh player to represent the Vodafone Warriors in 10 NRL seasons after Stacey Jones, Awen Guttenbeil, Lance Hohaia, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei and Simon Mannering).
200th Vodafone Warrior | Raymond Faitala-Mariner became the club’s 200th first-grade player when he made his debut against Gold Coast on Anzac Day.
500 Games in the NRL | The Vodafone Warriors’ match against Parramatta on May 16 was the club’s 500th in the competition since debuting in 1995.
100 NRL Games | Jonathan Wright made his 100th NRL appearance when he lined up against one of his former clubs Parramatta on May 16; it was his ninth game for the Vodafone Warriors after previously playing 12 games for Parramatta, 38 games for Canterbury-Bankstown and 41 games for Cronulla.
100 NRL Games | Bodene Thompson made his 100th NRL appearance when he lined up against Canberra on June 21 after previously playing 49 games for Gold Coast and 36 for Wests Tigers.
50 NRL Games | Chad Townsend made his 50th NRL appearance when he lined up against South Sydney on June 6; it was his 31st match for the Vodafone Warriors after previously playing 19 games for Cronulla.
10 Tries in 10 Consecutive Seasons | When Manu Vatuvei scored against the Sydney Roosters on June 6, he completed the unprecedented feat of scoring 10 tries or more in 10 consecutive seasons (2006-2015).
500 Points in the NRL | Shaun Johnson passed 500 career points in the NRL on his way to scoring 20 points against Gold Coast on June 20; he is the fourth player to reach the mark for the Vodafone Warriors after Ivan Cleary, Stacey Jones and Manu Vatuvei).
100 NRL Games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Shaun Johnson made his 100th NRL appearance when he lined up against the Sydney Roosters on July 19.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v MANLY SEA EAGLES
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
5.00pm, Saturday, July 25
Referees: Grant Atkins and Gavin Reynolds
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 GLEN FISIIAHI
3 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 JONATHAN WRIGHT
6 CHAD TOWNSEND
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER
13 SIMON MANNERING (c)
14 SILIVA HAVILI
15 SIONE LOUSI
16 SAM RAPIRA
17 ALBERT VETE
18 SAM LOUSI
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN
MANLY SEA EAGLES
1 BRETT STEWART
2 JORGE TAUFUA
3 JAMIE LYON (c)
4 STEVE MATAI
5 PETA HIKU
6 KIERAN FORAN
7 DALY CHERRY-EVANS
8 JAKE TRBOJEVIC
9 MATT BALLIN
10 WILLIE MASON
11 FELETI MATEO
12 TOM SYMONDS
13 LIGI SAO
14 LUKE BURGESS
15 JAYDEN HODGES
16 JUSTIN HORO
17 JOSH STARLING
19 JAMES HASSON
COACH: GEOFF TOOVEY
BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ
Head to head | Vodafone Warriors $1.30, Manly Sea Eagles $3.30
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 4.30pm (kick-off 5.00pm), Saturday, 25