The last time the Penrith Panthers were at Mount Smart Stadium in 2014, former Vodafone Warriors coach and player Ivan Cleary was at the helm.
It was a round 16 contest, one the Vodafone Warriors won 30-20.
A little more than two years later Cleary senior is no longer in the role but the family name is on Penrith’s team sheet in the form of his 18-year-old son Nathan, who’ll be wearing the No 7 jersey in Saturday’s Women in League encounter with the Vodafone Warriors (5.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Harvey Norman).
For the younger Cleary the place couldn’t be more familiar – yet it will be an entirely unfamiliar experience for him having his first real outing at a venue that used to be just a big playground for him.
He made his NYC debut only last year but the Panthers didn’t have a visit to Auckland so tomorrow he will have his initiation playing against the club he supported for so long.
Cleary junior can count spending more than half of his life so far in Auckland.
He wasn’t much more than two years old when his father brought his family to the city to start his three-year career as a Vodafone Warriors player, a stay which would finish with his 53rd and last appearance in the 2002 grand final.
There’s a memorable photo taken a few weeks before the grand final of Cleary on the field at the then Ericsson Stadium with Nathan – then not quite five – and his first daughter India. It was captured when a number of players were farewelled after the club’s last home game of the season, the week one finals clash against Canberra.
Not long after the end of the 2004 season the Cleary family was back in Auckland as Ivan returned for another seven years, first as an assistant coach in 2005 and then head coach for six seasons from 2006-2011.
Throughout that time Nathan was regularly around the club, seemingly always there on game days kitted out in Vodafone Warriors colours. It was a time when a sizeable group of kids of staff and players would be seen amusing themselves on the field or in the gym after games. The young Cleary would be among them, invariably with a rugby league ball in his hands, kicking and passing it endlessly, more often than not in harness with current Vodafone Junior Warrior Eiden Ackland. The two of them went on to play junior rugby league together for Mount Albert before the Clearys headed back to Sydney in 2011.
Now not quite five years later it will be totally serious business for Nathan Cleary as he prepares to guide Penrith’s NRL side around his old playground while Ackland is on an extended bench for the home side’s NYC squad which plays the curtain-raiser.
In Cleary’s last year living in Auckland, a 20-year-old Shaun Johnson had made his NRL debut for Vodafone Warriors under Cleary senior.
Tomorrow Johnson and his vastly-experienced halves partner Thomas Leuluai will carry plenty of responsibility as the Vodafone Warriors eye a battle critical to both teams in the countdown to the finals. The battle halves – Cleary in tandem with back rower-turned-standoff Bryce Cartwright – will be a real highlight.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v PENRITH | WINS AT MOUNT SMART STADIUM
March 29, 1997 | Auckland Warriors 16, Penrith 14
June 7, 1998 | Auckland Warriors 15, Penrith 14
April 16, 2001 | Vodafone Warriors 52, Penrith 8
July 1, 2006 | Vodafone Warriors 28, Penrith 22
June 22, 2007 | Vodafone Warriors 54, Penrith 14
August 31, 2008 | Vodafone Warriors 42, Penrith 20
May 1, 2011 | Vodafone Warriors 26, Penrith 18
June 29, 2014 | Vodafone Warriors 30, Penrith 20
VODAFONE WARRIORS v PENRITH PANTHERS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
5.00pm, Saturday, July 30
Referees: Grant Atkins and Chris Sutton
1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA (Marist Saints)
2 KEN MAUMALO (Papatoetoe Panthers)
3 DAVID FUSITU’A (Marist Saints)
4 SOLOMONE KATA (Howick Hornets)
5 MANU VATUVEI (Otara Scorpions)
6 THOMAS LEULUAI (Papatoetoe Panthers)
7 SHAUN JOHNSON (Hibiscus Coast Raiders)
8 JACOB LILLYMAN (Richmond Tigers)
9 ISSAC LUKE (Hawera Hawks)
10 BEN MATULINO (Te Aroha Eels)
11 BUNTY AFOA (Point Chevalier Pirates)
12 RYAN HOFFMAN (Campbelltown Collegians) (c)
13 SIMON MANNERING (Te Aroha Eels)
14 JAZZ TEVAGA (Papakura Sea Eagles)
15 SAM LISONE (Otara Scorpions)
16 JAMES GAVET (Richmond Rovers)
17 BLAKE AYSHFORD (Paddington Tigers)
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN
1 MATT MOYLAN (c)
2 JOSH MANSOUR
3 WAQA BLAKE
4 TYRONE PEACHEY
5 DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK
6 BRYCE CARTWRIGHT
7 NATHAN CLEARY
8 LEILANI LATU
9 PETER WALLACE
10 SUAIA MATAGI
11 ISAAH YEO
12 JAMES FISHER-HARRIS
13 TRENT MERRIN
14 MOSES LEOTA
15 SITALEKI AKAUALO
16 CHRIS GREVSMUHL
17 ZAK HARDAKER
20 ANDY SAUNDERS
21 VILIAME KIKAU
COACH | ANTHONY GRIFFIN
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA | The 21-year-old Lolohea has been the subject of much debate over the last month as he has been tasked with various roles. His versatility has seen him used on the wing, the bench and now he’s back to start at fullback.
#2 DAVID FUSITU’A | Like fellow Marist Saints junior Lolohea, Fusitu’a has the ability to interchange between positions even within a game as he did against Canberra last week when he was moved from fullback to the right wing. This time he starts in the centres.
#3 BEN MATULINO | The club’s 2015 player of the year has been as consistent as ever throughout this season although he wasn’t in the play as much as usual against Canberra with nine runs and 71 metres. Overall he’s averaging 122 metres a game this year.
#4 SIMON MANNERING | No Vodafone Warriors player works as hard as Mannering week out, week in. His role in the middle of the park has increased his workload as evidenced in the games against Manly and Canberra when he made a total of more than 100 tackles.
#5 SAM LISONE | The 22-year-old has been impressive as an interchange prop, especially in his 37 minutes against Canberra last week when he made 119 metres from 13 aggressive runs, added 14 tackles without a miss and also a try assist and line break assist.
TOP STATS | v CANBERRA RAIDERS | LOST 22-26
Penalties | Vodafone Warriors 5, Canberra 6.
Completions | Vodafone Warriors 29/39 (76%), Canberra 30/36 (83%).
Total runs | Vodafone Warriors 199, Canberra 164.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors 1796, Canberra 1570.
Line breaks | Vodafone Warriors 5, Canberra 7.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors 20, Canberra 39.
Kicks (kicking metres) | Vodafone Warriors 19 (292), Canberra 21 (530).
Tackles Made | Vodafone Warriors 295, Canberra 325.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors 39, Canberra 20.
Offloads | Vodafone Warriors 15, Canberra 14.
Errors | Vodafone Warriors 8, Canberra 8.
Runs | Vodafone Warriors: David Fusitu’a 17, Ken Maumalo 17, Ryan Hoffman 16, Thomas Leuluai 16, Bunty Afoa 15, Jacob Lillyman 13, Simon Mannering 13, Sam Lisone 13, Shaun Johnson 12, Manu Vatuvei 11, Solomone Kata 11. Canberra: Joseph Leilua 19, Jordan Rapana 17, Josh Papalii 16, Edrick Lee 14, Jack Wighton 14, Junior Paulo 12, Luke Bateman 12, Iosia Soliola 11.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors: David Fusitu’a 175, Ryan Hoffman 155, Ken Maumalo 148, Shaun Johnson 133, Bunty Afoa 133, Manu Vatuvei 123, Thomas Leuluai 123, Sam Lisone 119. Canberra: Jordan Rapana 177, Joseph Leilua 175, Josh Papalii 147, Edrick Lee 141, Jack Wighton 136, Iosia Soliola 120, Junior Paulo 116, Luke Bateman 111.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors: Shaun Johnson 4, David Fusitu’a 3, Solomone Kata 3. Canberra: Jordan Rapana 11, Jospeh Leilua 7, Jarrod Croker 4.
Off loads | Vodafone Warriors: Shaun Johnson 3, Ryan Hoffman 3. Canberra: Joseph Leilua 5.
Tackles made | Vodafone Warriors: Simon Mannering 41, Bunty Afoa 34, Ben Matulino 23, Ryan Hoffman 22, Jacob Lillyman 21, Issac Luke 21, Blake Ayshford 20. Canberra: Josh Hodgson 46, Elliott Whitehead 40, Iosia Soliola 31, Josh Papalii 28, Luke Bateman 26, Shaun Fensom 25, Aidan Sezer 20.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors: Sam Lisone 0. Canberra: Josh Papalii 0, Joseph Tapine 0, Jarrod Croker 0, Junior Paulo 0, Jack Wighton 0.
Supports | Vodafone Warriors: Solomone Kata 12, Manu Vatuvei 9, Ken Maumalo 8, Thomas Leuluai 6, David Fusitu’a 6. Canberra: Jarrod Croker 12, Edrick Lee 10, Jordan Rapana 8.
Decoys | Vodafone Warriors: Simon Mannering 10, Bunty Afoa 7, Jacob Lillyman 7. Canberrra: Joseph Tapine 8, Luke Bateman 7.
RECORD | v PENRITH PANTHERS
Overall Record | Played 36, Vodafone Warriors 15, Penrith 20, Drawn 1.
Home | Played 16, Won 8, Lost 8.
Last 10 Games (home and away) | Vodafone Warriors 4, Penrith 6.
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).
Bunty Afoa (#213) made his club debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Gold Coast at Mount Smart Stadium on July 2 (Round 17).
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).
Bunty Afoa (#213) made his NRL debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Gold Coast at Mount Smart Stadium on July 2 (Round 17).
Most NRL appearances for Vodafone Warriors | Simon Mannering plays his 253rd NRL game (Stacey Jones’ record is 261).
250 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Simon Mannering plays his 253rd NRL game.
200 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Ben Matulino plays his 191st NRL game.
200 NRL games (overall) | Issac Luke plays his 206th NRL game (his 18th for the Vodafone Warriors) after appearing in 188 matches for South Sydney.
150 NRL games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 162nd game for the Vodafone Warriors (record for the most games for the club by an Australian player). It’s the 224th in his career including 62 for North Queensland.
150 NRL games (overall) | Blake Ayshford plays his 143rd NRL game (his 19th consecutive match 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 44th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors; Solomone Kata plays his 42nd NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors.
150 NRL tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 150 tries in 219 NRL appearances. He scored his 150th try in the match against Canberra on July 23 becoming only the 11th player in the competition’s 108-year to achieve the feat. Vatuvei is 11th on the all-time list. The only current players ahead of him are Billy Slater (172 in 278 games) and Brett Stewart (163 in 233 games).
10 tries or more in a season | Manu Vatuvei has the all-time NRL record as the only player in history to have scored 10 tries or more in 10 consecutive seasons; he achieved this from 2006-2015.
600 NRL points | Shaun Johnson has scored 655 points (Stacey Jones’ club record is 674); Manu Vatuvei has scored 600 points, third on the club’s list of all-time points-scorers.
500 NRL points | Issac Luke has scored 466 points.
50 NRL tries | Shaun Johnson has 54 tries; Blake Ayshford has 42 tries; Issac Luke has 39 tries; Jonathan Wright has 36 tries.
50 NRL games as NRL coach (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Andrew McFadden coaches the Vodafone Warriors for the 62nd time. His record in 61 games is 27 wins, 34 losses.
250 games at Mount Smart Stadium | The Vodafone Warriors’ played their 250th game at Mount Smart Stadium when they faced Gold Coast on July 2 (they have so far played 247 regular season games plus three home finals at Mount Smart Stadium). This week they play their 251st match at Mount Smart Stadium.
2000 tries in the NRL | 1982 (1995-2016)
BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ
Head to head | Vodafone Warriors $1.67, Penrith Panthers $2.10
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 4.30pm (kick-off 5.00pm NZT), Saturday, July 30