April 10, 2004 | Ali Lauitiiti's last home appearance at Mount Smart Stadium (then Ericsson Stadium) before he left the club for the English Super League. Image | www.photosport.nz

Club legend Ali Lauitiiti will give the Vodafone Warriors’ homecoming a special touch at Mount Smart Stadium tomorrow.

At the unfashionable time of 11.45am he’ll lead the club’s Intrust Super Premiership team onto the ground to face the Newtown Jets in a third-round clash in what used to be called the New South Wales Cup.

It will be the first time Lauitiiti has played on the ground for the Vodafone Warriors in close to 12 years.

He was a 24-year-old when he had his last home game for the club before leaving to link up with the Leeds Rhinos. That occasion was a 20-34 loss to Newcastle on April 10, 2004 in front of a crowd of close to 14,500, his team-mates including the man who’s now his coach – Stacey Jones – and Thomas Leuluai, who’s also back at the club. Others included Wairangi Koopu, Francis Meli, Brent Webb, Clinton Toopi and Jerry Seuseu.

Tomorrow, and now 36, Lauitiiti is at last back at one of his favourite places, seeking to lead the Vodafone Warriors to a second consecutive ISP victory following their convincing 44-6 win over Wests Tigers last week.

After starting at prop in round one against Illawarra, Lauitiiti was in the second row against the Tigers, producing a display which led to him being one of five Vodafone Warriors included in the ISP team of the week (along with Matt Allwood, Ata Hingano, Albert Vete and Upu Poching). He scored a try, made a 60-metre break which almost earned him a second and he also delivered a try-scoring pass for Allwood.

In 57 minutes on the field the big ball player made 143 metres from 11 runs (one of nine Vodafone Warriors to make 100-plus metres) while against Illawarra he made 111 metres from 11 runs playing a total of 58 minutes. 

This week Lauitiiti has been named to start at loose forward.  

  • Lauitiiti has played on Mount Smart Stadium once since his last NRL appearance there in 2004; he was in the Toa Samoa side for its historic first-ever Test against the Kiwis at Mount Smart in October 2010.

 

VODAFONE WARRIORS v NEWTOWN JETS

Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland

11.45am, Sunday, March 20

Referee: Shane Rehm

 

VODAFONE WARRIORS

1 TOMAS AOAKE 

2 KEN MAUMALO

3 DAVID FUSITU’A

4 MATT ALLWOOD

5 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD

6 ERIN CLARK

7 ATA HINGANO

8 PAUL TULI

9 JAZZ TEVAGA

10 UPU POCHING

11 MARATA NIUKORE

12 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER

13 ALI LAUITIITI (c)

Interchange:

14 VILIAMI KAVEINGA

15 DANIEL PALAVI

16 PAT SIPLEY

17 JAMES BELL

COACH | STACEY JONES

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