For me personally 2002 was the pinnacle of my career.
That particular year had so many life-changing experiences, memorable moments and monumental achievements that are etched in the club’s and New Zealand rugby league’s history but also my playing career.
The club, from bottom to top, had a culture that nurtured a relentless belief and faith in each other – from our amazing, diehard and faithful supporters, to the good old team song that was regularly sung in our sheds plus our club-themed song “Matter of Faith” (there was a lot of meaning behind that song), the grass roots rugby league community where the majority of us began playing footy, our pioneering coaching staff, super bubbly office staff and the remarkable management. To our loyal sponsors, our loving friends and families, non-rugby league supporters; they too believed and had their eyes, ears and hearts glued to television and radios or in the stands to show us their support on our journey. There were also our influential owners and, last but not least, each and every one of our brothers for life who wore that Vodafone Warriors jersey in 2002 (and that jersey, being worn this week, is my all-time favourite).
I have so many significant memories that have a special place in my heart, from the first time we beat the Broncos on their soil to the Raiders at home when everyone came from far and wide to celebrate and witness our first-ever home semi-final and win. That was a game where we were able to give our loyal supporters and the rugby league community a big thank you for their unwavering support rain, hail or shine, win or lose. And there’s the memory of that try we scored late in the play-off against the Sharks and, of course, the pinnacle of the NRL season – grand final week and the grand final itself.
What was so special about the 2002 team as a whole was that we had a diverse group of players who complemented each other. We didn't need one or two players to make super human efforts each week as there was a collective pact where we had each other’s back and were always there for one another, although the odd ego – mine – got in the way for a few now and then lol! But we honestly knew that what we had was bigger than us all. The preseason trainings and the goals for the club and team were a key. If I missed a tackle someone always had my back. If there was a scuffle or a penalty on our line, we'd know that everyone in that jersey would break a bone for each other; and no matter how far behind or in front we were, we had the self-belief, faith and confidence in each other that we were not going to lose and that we were unbeatable.
It was unfortunate that we lost the grand final but we had finally won the respect of our nation as well as the NRL and the rugby league community. We were consistent, we were tough, we were entertaining, we were also feared, we were relentless, seasoned campaigners and a top four team. That’s how I will always remember those memorable days and these fond memories will forever stay dear in my heart.
Lastly I want to say that it's always lovely to see the loyal supporters still there hearty as to this day. On the odd occasion I cross paths and reminisce about the good old days with them. Now, to me, that’s special.
Thank you all for your support over the years and I wish nothing but prosperity to the club and good fortunes for this heritage game and the remainder of the year! Go the WARRIORS!!! #gohard