Little separates the Vodafone Warriors and the Melbourne Storm as they prepare to renew acquaintances for the 37th time in history in the first home game of the season at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday (4.05pm kick-off).
The two fierce rivals go head-to-head contesting the Michael Moore Trophy in the #PlayNRL Round, a round which focuses on encouraging people of all ages to get involved in local football in any shape or form.
It’s a round which also provides a chance to recall and celebrate the players’ origins by recognising their junior clubs (scroll down to the team lists to see each player's junior club).
For the Vodafone Warriors and the Storm, though, it’s the nature of their on-field rivalry which is again in the spotlight.
The last time they met on July 12 last year they provided an encounter which added still more lustre to their backstory, an occasion when the Vodafone Warriors won 28-14 to reclaim the Michael Moore Trophy (a trophy which has never been in either club’s possession for more than three times on end; indeed, it has changed hands after each of the last three battles).
Overall only two wins separate the combatants, Melbourne winning 18 and the Vodafone Warriors 16 with two drawn. At Mount Smart Stadium, the Vodafone Warriors have a 9-8 edge in 17 meetings. It’s the second best record of all clubs against the Storm with only Canterbury-Bankstown boasting a positive winning record (20-16) and more wins overall than the Vodafone Warriors have achieved.
The special history of Vodafone Warriors-Melbourne conflicts takes on even more meaning for seven of the team named in the starting 17 for the home side.
Fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, centre Blake Ayshford, halfback Jeff Robson, hooker Issac Luke, interchange hooker Nathaniel Roache and bench front rower James Gavet will have the dual experience of their first NRL match for the club at Mount Smart coinciding with a clash against the Storm. And Hoffman captains the club for the first time at home in a match which is also his first at Mount Smart against his old side (he missed last July’s match). The only other player in the extended squad named who hasn’t played against the Storm in Auckland - not mention won against them - is back rower John Palavi.
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 RYAN HOFFMAN | The veteran back rower’s first game back at Mount Smart Stadium this season has a double edge to it – his first at home captaining the side and also his first experience of playing against his old Melbourne club at Mount Smart.
#2 ALBERT VETE AND CHARLIE GUBB | After being 18th man against Wests Tigers, Vete played big minutes in the Intrust Super Premiership last Saturday while Gubb comes in fresh after being side-lined serving a suspension hanging over from last season.
#3 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK | Another key moment on Sunday as he eyes his first game as a Vodafone Warrior at Mount Smart Stadium playing in front of family and friends. He has already carried the ball 39 times for 405 metres in his first two games for the club.
#4 ISSAC LUKE | Like Tuivasa-Sheck, this is a milestone event for Luke having his maiden outing for the club at Mount Smart Stadium. It follows a hectic and emotional period for him after his wife Mickayela gave birth to the newest addition to their family, daughter Frankie.
#5 SIMON MANNERING | Two games into the season and the tireless workhorse has already made 110 tackles shoring up the middle of the park. This will be the first time since 2009 that he hasn’t been Vodafone Warriors captain for a game at Mount Smart Stadium.