In just over three weeks the Vodafone Warriors make the long trip to Perth to face Manly in what will be a key contest in their 2016 NRL campaign.
They Vodafone Warriors have just come off a tough 12-10 victory over the Sydney Roosters, their third straight win which has improved their record to 7-7 and moved them back into the top eight on 16 points.
They now have games to come against Cronulla (away) and Gold Coast (home) plus their second bye before heading to Western Australia.
Thousands of ex-pat Kiwis living in the state are expected in the crowd for the Sea Eagles’ ‘home’ game at Perth’s nib Stadium on Saturday, July 16 (3.30pm kick-off local time, 7.30pm NZT).
It’s the second time the Vodafone Warriors and Manly have met in Western Australia, the first in 2012 when they were run down by a fast-finishing Sea Eagles side in a 22-24 loss at Patersons Oval.
The very mention of Manly conjures up memories of so many New Zealand players who have been with the club or, indeed, still are.
And the thought of the two clubs also sparks conversation about players who have turned out for both clubs.
This season alone the Sea Eagles have four double representatives in their squad in Lewis Brown, Feleti Mateo, Pita Godinet and Isaac John as well as a New Zealand flavour in current international Martin Taupau, former Kiwi Steve Matai, ex-Junior Kiwi Addin Fonua-Blake and New Zealand-born Matthew Wright.
The Vodafone Warriors have two former Manly players in their squad this year – halfback Jeff Robson, who started his NRL career there in 2004, and Ligi Sao, back home after making his NRL debut on the northern beaches. Another link this season can be found through utility Thomas Leuluai whose father James, the outstanding Kiwi centre of the 1980s, had a brief stint with Manly in 1985.
The Vodafone Warriors’ connections with the Sea Eagles have been strong through the years.
In the foundation season ex-Manly star Phil Blake was at fullback while standoff Gene Ngamu started his first-grade with the Sea Eagles in 1992.
Many more have followed. Awen Guttenbeil was in Manly’s junior system before coming home to start his first-grade career in 1996 while players who have been first-graders for both clubs since include Matthew Ridge, Joe Galuvao, Kevin Iro, Scott Pethybridge and Michael Witt while Peta Hiku, an NYC premiership winner with the Vodafone Junior Warriors, broke into the NRL with Manly.
Apart from the already-mentioned Matai, Leuluai, Taupau, Fonua-Blake and Wright, some of the other New Zealand links with Manly have included former coach Graham Lowe and a host of players including Tony Iro, Adrian Shelford, Joe Ropati, Craig Innes, Darrell Williams, Justin Horo, Kieran Foran, Liam Foran, Dean Whare, Kylie Leuluai, Jake Afamasaga, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Sam Harris and Danny Lima.
There are also a couple of more obscure ties in former Auckland Lions wing Andrew Suniula and Wellington’s Jorgen – or Yogi as he was known – Rogers who made one appearance for Manly in 1994. Suniula returned to rugby union after his stint with Manly and is a current United States international who lined up against the All Blacks at Soldier Field in Chicago in 2014.
Many other New Zealanders have played in the lower grades for the Sea Eagles.