Heading to Christchurch for the first time in six years evokes memories not only of previous performances there – and there have been two special wins – but also of the Vodafone Warriors’ Canterbury links throughout the club’s history.
Saturday night’s ‘away’ clash against Penrith will be the sixth NRL game the Vodafone Warriors have played in the South Island’s biggest city but the first at AMI Stadium, best-known by rugby league devotees as the Addington Showgrounds.
In the wake of the horrific damage caused by Christchurch’s earthquakes, Jade Stadium or AMI Stadium (or Lancaster Park) was rendered unusable forcing rugby union to look for a new home. The search resulted in the old showgrounds being upgraded and transformed into Rugby League Park or AMI Stadium, home for rugby union’s Crusaders, the Canterbury ITM Cup side and also a Test venue for the All Blacks.
The Vodafone Warriors’ five previous ‘away’ matches in Christchurch were all played at rugby union’s famed Lancaster Park. The first was in 1996 against Balmain, which operated under the name of the Sydney Tigers at the time; the Tigers won 34-22 on a chilly day.
Wests Tigers (the merger between Balmain and Western Suburbs) had three consecutive matches at the venue, winning 50-4 in 2004 and 24-6 in 2005 before the Vodafone Warriors stopped the run with an outstanding 26-10 win in 2006 in a match which was veteran Awen Guttenbeil’s 150th NRL appearance.
In 2010, the Vodafone Warriors met the Sydney Roosters in front of a crowd of almost 21,000, an exceptional turnout in what were frigid conditions (sleet included). It was a game forever remembered for Kevin Locke’s amazing score-levelling try when he crashed into an upright hunting down a kick, James Maloney converting for a 20-18 victory.
So to the players who have contributed to the club.
Of the 212 who have so far appeared at NRL level for the Vodafone Warriors, there a number with links to Canterbury; most were Christchurch-born and raised and a couple were West Coasters who moved there to play their rugby league while the two most recent Christchurch-born Vodafone Warriors were there only briefly before their families moved to Auckland. Many other Canterbury players have been at the club at some stage without quite cracking it at first-grade level.
Featuring in the list of the first-grade coaches is one of Canterbury’s most popular sporting identities Frank Endacott.
The club’s first Canterbury product was West Coast-born Whetu Taewa (#5) who debuted in the historic first match against Brisbane on March 10, 1995. He was followed a few weeks later by loose forward Logan Edwards (#21) – who developed something of a cult following in that first season – and Mike Dorreen (#25).
The most recent have been utilities Pita Godinet (#170) and Jazz Tevaga (#209). Godinet, who started playing rugby league with Sydenham and Woolston, shifted to Auckland with his family when he was young as did Tevaga, who started out with the Burnham Chevaliers when his father was in the army.
The Vodafone Warriors’ longest-serving and best-known Canterbury player has undoubtedly been the charismatic Lewis Brown (#151), who played 84 times for the club (and scored 19 tries) from 2009-2012. He is also the only Canterbury player who has appeared in either of the Vodafone Warriors’ two grand finals.
While he made just four appearances in 2007, Corey Lawrie (#135) also carved out a reputation when he was signed. A scaffolder, the man known as ‘The Panther’ (out of the Hornby Panthers) endeared fans with his story and has been a regular at old boys’ days ever since.
#5 WHETU TAEWA (1995) | 11 games, 1 try
#21 LOGAN EDWARDS (1995) | 15 games, 1 try
#25 MIKE DORREEN (1995) | 4 games, 2 tries
#44 SHANE ENDACOTT (1997-1999) | 42 games, 3 tries
#48 AARON WHITTAKER (1997-1998) | 9 games, 1 try, 1 goal, 1 field goal
#52 QUENTIN PONGIA (1998) | 18 games
#60 TERRY HERMANSSON (1999-2000) | 39 games, 1 try
#119 KANE FERRIS (2004) | 1 game
#135 COREY LAWRIE (2007) | 4 games
#151 LEWIS BROWN (2009-2012) | 84 games, 19 tries
#170 PITA GODINET (2011-2012) | 8 games, 2 tries
#209 JAZZ TEVAGA (2016) | 4 games
FRANK ENDACOTT | Assistant coach 1995-1997, head coach 1997-1998
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 BEN MATULINO & BODENE THOMPSON | Matulino and Thompson come back into the line-up after missing the match against St George Illawarra. They’ve been two of the team’s most consistent performers throughout the season so far.
#2 JAZZ TEVAGA | Tevaga has lived most of his life in Papakura and regards it as home although he was actually born in Christchurch. He heads into his second straight match as the starting hooker, keeping the vastly-experienced Issac Luke on the bench.
#3 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA | Lolohea started in the halves against the Bulldogs, had to switch to fullback when Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was injured and was then injured himself in the Melbourne clash. After missing a game he’s back hoping for a more settled time.
#4 DAVID FUSITU’A | The multi-skilled Fusitu’a has been in a rich vein of form since his first NRL appearance of the year last month. He produced a player of the day display at fullback against the Dragons but with Tuimoala Lolohea back he reverts to the wing.
#5 SHAUN JOHNSON | Johnson scored his 50th career try and went past 600 points in the win over the Dragons on May 1. He’s reunited with Thomas Leuluai in the halves against the Panthers after being the only Vodafone Warriors player in the Kiwis’ Anzac Test side.
TOP STATS | v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS | WON 26-10
Penalties | Vodafone Warriors 8, St George Illawarra 6.
Completions | Vodafone Warriors 28/36 (76%), St George Illawarra 28/38 (74%).
Total runs | Vodafone Warriors 176, St George Illawarra 168.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors 1508, St George Illawarra 1348.
Line breaks | Vodafone Warriors 6, St George Illawarra 3.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors 36, St George Illawarra 27.
Kicks (kicking metres) | Vodafone Warriors 16 (331), St George Illawarra 17 (379).
Tackles Made | Vodafone Warriors 289, St George Illawarra 318.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors 27, St George Illawarra 36.
Offloads | Vodafone Warriors 7, St George Illawarra 7.
Errors | Vodafone Warriors 12, St George Illawarra 11.
Runs | Vodafone Warriors: Jacob Lillyman 19, Jonathan Wright 17, David Fusitu’a 15, Shaun Johnson 15, Jazz Tevaga 13, Ryan Hoffman 13, Matt Allwood 12, Issac Luke 12, James Gavet 10. St George Illawarra: Jack de Belin 18, Leeson Ah Mau 14, Josh Dugan 12, Russell Packer 12, Mike Cooper 12, Tyson Frizzell 12, Kalifa Faifai Loa 11, Jason Nightingale 11, Benji Marshall 11.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors: Jacob Lillyman 174, Jonathan Wright 169, David Fusitu’a 163, Matt Allwood 115, Jazz Tevaga 109, James Gavet 109, Issac Luke 109. St George Illawarra: Leeson Ah Mau 131, Jack de Belin 131, Russell Packer 124, Josh Dugan 111.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors: David Fusitu’a 6, Jonathan Wright 5, Matt Allwood 4, Shaun Johnson 4. St George Illawarra: Euan Aitken 5, Tyson Frizzell 4.
Off loads | Vodafone Warriors: Blake Ayshford 2. St George Illawarra: Josh Dugan 3.
Tackles made | Vodafone Warriors: Jacob Lillyman 48, Jazz Tevaga 48, John Palavi 38, James Gavet 24, Charlie Gubb 22. St George Illawarra: Mitch Rein 40, Jack de Belin 37, Tyson Frizzell 31, Mike Cooper 30, Will Matthews 28, Leeson Ah Mau 25, Russell Packer 24.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors: Charlie Gubb 0, Sione Lousi 0, Solomone Kata 0, Jeff Robson 0, David Fusitu’a 0, Matt Allwood 0. St George Illawarra: Euan Aitken 0, Kalifa Faifai Loa 0, Jason Nightingale 0, Leeson Ah Mau 0, Siliva Havili 0.
Supports | Vodafone Warriors: John Palavi 11, Jeff Robson 10, Charlie Gubb 8, Blake Ayshford 8. St George Illawarra: Adam Quinlan 17, Will Matthews 8.
Decoys | Vodafone Warriors: Jacob Lillyman 10, John Palavi 8. St George Illawarra: Tyson Frizzell 10.
RECORD | v PENRITH PANTHERS
Overall Record | Played 35, Vodafone Warriors 15, Penrith 19, Drawn 1.
Away | Played 18, Vodafone Warriors 7, Penrith 10, Drawn 1.
Vodafone Warriors debuts | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (#203), Blake Ayshford (#204), Jeff Robson (#205), Issac Luke (#206), Nathaniel Roache (#207) and James Gavet (#208) made their debuts for the Vodafone Warriors against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium on March 5 (Round 1).
Jazz Tevaga (#209) made his club debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Melbourne at Mount Smart Stadium on March 20 (Round 3).
Ligi Sao (#210) made his club debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Canterbury-Bankstown at Westpac Stadium on April 16 (Round 7).
Shaun Lane (#211) made his club debut for the Vodafone Warriors against St George Illawarra at Mount Smart Stadium on May 1 (Round 9).
Toafofoa Sipley (#212) made his club debut for the Vodafone Warriors against St George Illawarra at Mount Smart Stadium on May 1 (Round 9).
NRL debuts | Nathaniel Roache made his NRL debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium on March 5 (Round 1).
Jazz Tevaga (#209) made his NRL debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Melbourne at Mount Smart Stadium on March 20 (Round 3).
Toafofoa Sipley (#212) made his NRL debut for the Vodafone Warriors against St George Illawarra at Mount Smart Stadium on May 1 (Round 9).
Most NRL appearances for Vodafone Warriors | Simon Mannering has played 244 NRL games (Stacey Jones’ record is 261).
250 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Simon Mannering has played 244 NRL games.
200 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Ben Matulino plays his 182nd NRL game.
200 NRL games (overall) | Issac Luke plays his 197th NRL game (his ninth for the Vodafone Warriors) after appearing in 188 matches for South Sydney.
150 NRL games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 155th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors this week, the 217th of his career including 62 for North Queensland (record for the most games for the club by an Australian player).
150 NRL games (overall) | Blake Ayshford plays his 134th NRL game (his 10th for the Vodafone Warriors) after appearing in 104 for Wests Tigers and 20 for Cronulla.
50 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Sione Lousi played his 50th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors against St George Illawarra on May 1; Tuimoala Lolohea plays his 35th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors; Solomone Kata plays his 34th consecutive game for the Vodafone Warriors since his debut in 2015.
150 NRL tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 148 tries in 215 NRL appearances. Only 10 players in history have scored 150 tries in the competition. Vatuvei is 11th-equal on the all-time list, just behind the great Bob Fulton (147). The only current players ahead of him are Billy Slater (172 in 278 games) and Brett Stewart (163 in 228 games).
10 tries or more in a season | Manu Vatuvei has the all-time NRL record having scored 10 tries or more in 10 consecutive seasons from 2006-2015.
600 NRL points | Shaun Johnson has scored 610 points; Manu Vatuvei has scored 592 points.
500 NRL points | Issac Luke has scored 426 points.
50 NRL tries | Shaun Johnson has 50 tries; Konrad Hurrell has 41 tries; Issac Luke has 39 tries; Blake Ayshford has 38 tries; Jonathan Wright has 34 tries.
50 NRL games as NRL coach (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Andrew McFadden coaches the Vodafone Warriors for the 53rd time. His record is 23 wins, 29 losses.
250 games at Mount Smart Stadium | The Vodafone Warriors have played 247 games at Mount Smart Stadium (244 regular season games plus three home finals).
2000 tries in the NRL | 1947 (1995-2016)
VODAFONE WARRIORS v PENRITH
AMI Stadium, Christchurch
5.00pm, Saturday, May 14
Referees: Matt Cecchin and David Munro
1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA (Marist Saints)
2 DAVID FUSITU’A (Marist Saints)
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD (Paddington Tigers)
4 SOLOMONE KATA (Howick Hornets)
5 JONATHAN WRIGHT (Northern Lake Warriors)
6 THOMAS LEULUAI (Papatoetoe Panthers)
7 SHAUN JOHNSON (Hibiscus Coast Raiders)
8 JACOB LILLYMAN (Richmond Rovers)
9 JAZZ TEVAGA (Burnham Chevaliers & Papakura Sea Eagles)
10 JAMES GAVET (Richmond Rovers)
11 BODENE THOMPSON (Tauranga City Sharks)
12 RYAN HOFFMAN (Campbelltown Collegians) (c)
13 JOHN PALAVI (Richmond Rovers)
14 ISSAC LUKE (Hawera Hawks)
15 BEN MATULINO (Te Aroha Eels)
16 CHARLIE GUBB (University Hunters)
17 SHAUN LANE (South Eastern Seagulls)
18 MATT ALLWOOD (Farrer Memorial Agricultural High)
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN
1 MATT MOYLAN
2 JOSH MANSOUR
3 WAQA BLAKE
4 PETA HIKU
5 DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK
6 JAMIE SOWARD
7 PETER WALLACE
8 SAM MCKENDRY
9 JAMES SEGEYARO
10 REAGAN CAMPBELL-GILLARD
11 BRYCE CARTWRIGHT
12 ISAAH YEO
13 TRENT MERRIN
14 TYRONE PEACHEY
15 JEREMY LATIMORE
16 LEILANI LATU
17 JAMES FISHER-HARRIS
20 SUAIA MATAGI
COACH | ANTHONY GRIFFIN
BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ
Head to head | Penrith Panthers $1.57, Vodafone Warriors $2.30
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 4.30pm (kick-off 5.00pm), Saturday, May 14