The Vodafone Warriors’ rivalry with the Parramatta Eels has encompassed many twists and turns, including a pair of week one finals encounters, an incredible number of shared players, and even three coaches who have been in charge of both clubs.
Overall record: Played 36 – Parramatta won 20, Vodafone Warriors won 16; Parramatta scored 781 points, Vodafone Warriors scored 758 points.
Biggest wins: Vodafone Warriors – 48-0 at Mt Smart Stadium, 2014; Parramatta – 56-12 at Parramatta Stadium, 2001 (final).
Longest winning streaks: Parramatta – 6 matches (1998-2001); Vodafone Warriors – 3 matches (twice – 2008-09 and 2014-15).
Finals: Played 2 – Parramatta won 2.
Most appearances: Nathan Hindmarsh (Parramatta) – 21; Luke Burt (Parramatta) – 20; Simon Mannering (Vodafone Warriors) – 19; Nathan Cayless (Parramatta) – 18; Stacey Jones (Vodafone Warriors) – 17; Manu Vatuvei (Vodafone Warriors) – 17.
Most tries: Manu Vatuvei (Vodafone Warriors) – 12; Luke Burt (Parramatta) – 11; Jarryd Hayne (Parramatta) – 11.
Most points: Luke Burt (Parramatta) – 142; Michael Witt (Parramatta and Vodafone Warriors) – 58; Manu Vatuvei (Vodafone Warriors) – 48; Jarryd Hayne (Parramatta) – 46; Shaun Johnson (Vodafone Warriors) – 43.
1995-96 – Auckland Warriors enjoy early success
Inaugural Auckland Warriors coach John Monie’s role was his first in the Australian premiership since his decorated 1984-89 stint at Parramatta that included the Eels’ last premiership in ’86, enjoying massive success at Wigan in the interceding years.
But Monie’s first assignment against his former club – a 40-4 victory over the struggling Eels at Parramatta Stadium in 1995 – was more significant for two other pockets of history. It was the Warriors’ maiden away win in their third trip across the Tasman, while future club legend Stacey Jones made his first grade debut off the bench, scoring a try and kicking a goal.
Jones became a permanent starter in the halves a few weeks later before going on to unseat long-serving Test captain Gary Freeman as New Zealand’s No 7 at the end-of-year World Cup.
Freeman came to Mt Smart in 1996 as big-spending Parramatta’s captain but it was a forgettable day for the Kiwi great, sent off for dissent – with ‘Hit the Road, Jack’ blasting out over the PA as he trudged off the field – in a 4-28 loss to the Warriors. Former All Black John Kirwan bagged a double in the big win.
1998-2007 – Heavyweight Eels dominate
The Warriors and Parramatta were on opposite sides of the Super League divide and, when the clubs reconvened under the NRL banner in 1998, the Eels were firmly established as heavyweights. Accordingly, they won six straight games against the Warriors, including a maiden win at Mt Smart in 1999, 25-18.
The Vodafone Warriors came up short home and away against the Eels in 2000; doubles to Nigel Vagana and former Parramatta flyer Lee Oudenryn weren’t enough in a 22-24 loss at Parramatta Stadium, while a David Penna field goal got the Eels over the line 11-10 at Mt Smart after the hosts scored two tries to one.
Former Parramatta lower-grade coach Daniel Anderson took over at the Vodafone Warriors in 2001 and helped them snap the losing streak with a vital 29-18 upset of the ladder-leading Eels in round 18, with Ivan Cleary tallying 17 points. The result helped the Vodafone Warriors qualify for the finals for the first time in their seventh season.
Qualifying Final, 2001 – Eels wreck finals debut
The euphoria of the Vodafone Warriors reaching their maiden finals series quickly dissipated under a 12-56 thrashing at the hands of runaway minor premier Parramatta. The mismatch was effectively decided by halftime as the Eels kicked out to a 24-6 lead and they went into overdrive after the break to finish comprehensive nine-tries-to-two victors. Brett Hodgson and Daniel Wagon notched two tries each, while veteran halfback Jason Taylor scored 18 points.
The Vodafone Warriors made a crucial acquisition from Parramatta in the ensuing off-season with PJ Marsh heading to Auckland. Marsh assumed the No 9 jumper at the Auckland club and won a Queensland Origin debut in 2002.
The Vodafone Warriors swept Parramatta aside 26-10 on their way to the 2002 minor premiership, but honours were shared in ’03 as the rivals each picked up a home win by two-point margins. The story was the same as both clubs missed the finals in 2004 although the margins were more emphatic, with future Vodafone Warrior Michael Witt racking up 24 points in a 48-18 home victory for the Eels.
The Eels won five straight against the Vodafone Warriors from 2004-06, including a pair of wins at Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium.
2007-12 – Blue-and-gold respite for Vodafone Warriors
The Vodafone Warriors chalked up a rare round one win in 2007 by defeating Parramatta 34-18 at Mt Smart. The return clash in round 11 would be one of the more infamous nights in the club’s history, however, as powerhouse wing Manu Vatuvei’s error-strewn display contributed heavily to a 6-30 loss at Parramatta Stadium.
The clubs clashed a third time later that season.
Qualifying Final, 2007 – Eels snatch win at Mt Smart
Parramatta pulled off a 12-10 victory over the Vodafone Warriors in Auckland to kick off the 2007 finals series. After a scoreless first half, Todd Byrne posted the first four-pointer for the home side before Feleti Mateo and Jarryd Hayne crossed for tries to give the Eels a commanding 12-4 lead. But former Parramatta playmaker Michael Witt was awarded a penalty try after being taken out by Chad Robinson to set up a nail-biting finish. The visitors clung to their two-point lead grimly, however, and consigned the Vodafone Warriors to a week two date in Townsville against the Cowboys.
2008 – The Beast’s redemption
Manu Vatuvei quelled some demons with a two-try performance against the Eels in a 30-16 win at Mt Smart early in 2008 but his ultimate redemption came in the final round of the regular season when he scored an unforgettable hat-trick in a 28-6 win at Parramatta Stadium – the scene of his ’07 shocker – that clinched the Vodafone Warriors’ place in the finals. It was the club’s first win at the venue since its ’95 debut campaign.
Lance Hohaia scored two tries off the bench and Denan Kemp kick five-from-five in his Vodafone Warriors debut in a 26-18 win in round one of 2009 but the Vodafone Warriors were powerless to stop eventual Dally M Medal winner Jarryd Hayne in round 23. The brilliant fullback earned a perfect ‘10’ rating from Rugby League Week for his sensational performance in a 40-4 rout at Parramatta Stadium.
The Vodafone Warriors chalked up back-to-back wins at Parramatta Stadium for the first time ever in 2010 and 2012, either side of an 18-24 loss to the Eels in the opening round of 2011, an historic encounter at New Zealand rugby union headquarters Eden Park.
2013-14 – Vodafone Warriors’ horror season openers
Embarking on round one trips to Parramatta Stadium in 2013 and ’14, the Vodafone Warriors endured devastatingly similar results. Hayne scored a hat-trick in a 40-10 Eels victory in the former year, while Semi Radradra and Vai Toutai both picked up try trebles in a 36-16 hammering in the latter; Parramatta came into both games as the reigning wooden spooner.
2014-16 - Vodafone Warriors turn the tables
The Vodafone Warriors made up for their season-opening misery at the hands of Parramatta with a 48-0 win at Mt Smart in round 18 of the 2014 campaign. In one of the most complete performances in the club’s history, Shaun Johnson tallied 20 points and English fullback Sam Tomkins scored two of the hosts’ eight tries, including a memorable effort after the Vodafone Warriors’ pack steamrolled the Eels’ forwards to win a scrum against the feed.
Rookie Vodafone Warriors centre Solomone Kata scored two tries in a 29-16 early-season win at home in 2015 before the rivals went to golden point for the first time just seven weeks later.
Round 10, 2015 – Thompson try wins golden point epic
The Vodafone Warriors stole a nerve-shredding 17-13 golden point win from Parramatta at Pirtek Stadium thanks to a Bodene Thompson try with just 17 seconds of the first period of extra-time remaining. The visitors led 12-0 at halftime after a dazzling Shaun Johnson try and another four-pointer to Solomone Kata but the Eels hit back through unconverted tries to Semi Radradra, Anthony Watmough and Ryan Morgan to level the scores. Chad Townsend and Luke Kelly traded field goals in the final six minutes to send the tense struggle into golden point when back-rower Thompson proved the Vodafone Warriors’ hero by catching a retreating Eels defence napping.
The Vodafone Warriors had to wait 477 days for another crack at Parramatta but the final-round clash in 2016 was a sombre affair for the home side at Mt Smart after dipping out of finals contention with a loss to Wests Tigers a week earlier. The Eels, beset by off-field distractions all season, finished with a flourish as rookie fullback Bevan French scored a hat-trick in a 40-18 victory on a wet Auckland night.
PLAYED FOR BOTH CLUBS
Mark Horo: Warriors back rower Horo made his Kiwi Test debut in the famous 13-6 upset of Australia at Lang Park in 1987 and ventured to Sydney with Parramatta in 1990. He played 62 games in five seasons for the Eels and, after a year with Western Suburbs, Horo made the last of 16 Test appearances in 1996 while at the Warriors. Horo turned out in 36 of a possible 39 games for the club in 1996-97 before hanging up the boots.
Iva Ropati: A New Zealand Test rep in 1993, Iva Ropati played four first grade games for Parramatta the following season before joining older brother Tea at the Warriors. Iva made seven appearances in the top flight for the Warriors in 1996-97.
Lee Oudenryn: Wing speedster Lee Oudenryn shot to prominence as a Parramatta rookie in 1992, famously beating Great Britain superstar Martin Offiah in a pre-match sprint race during the Lions’ tour Down Under. After 50 games for the Eels, Oudenryn spent 1996 with the Gold Coast Chargers, then embarked on a four-season stay with the Warriors that garnered 23 tries in 61 games. Oudenryn finished his career at North Queensland in 2001.
Matthew Spence: Highly-rated back rower Spence debuted for the Eels as an 18-year-old in 1995 and played 35 first grade games for the club across four seasons. After a season at Western Suburbs, Spence played 18 games for the Auckland Warriors in 2000.
John Simon: Gifted former Illawarra and Sydney City half Simon won a NSW Origin recall and Australian Test debut after joining Parramatta in 1997. The Indigenous playmaker played 45 games and featured in two finals campaigns for the Eels but joined the Warriors midway through 1999. Simon played 30 games in a colourful season-and-a-half stint in Auckland that included being installed as captain after just one game for the club. He finished up at Wests Tigers in 2001.
Jason Bell: Livewire centre/half Bell played 106 games in two stints with Parramatta between 1989 and ’99, spending four seasons at Norths and Souths during the mid-1990s. Once dubbed ‘the next Peter Sterling’ as an Eels youngster, Bell linked with his former Parramatta halves partner John Simon at the Vodafone Warriors in 2000 but his eight appearances for the Warriors included just three starts.
Justin Morgan: Handy front rower Morgan played 83 games for Parramatta from 1994-99 before spending a season with Canberra. The skilful bookend played 28 games for the Vodafone Warriors in 2001-02 but did not feature in the club’s finals campaign in either year. Moving into coaching – including a five-season stint at the helm of Hull KR – Morgan returned to Auckland as Andrew McFadden’s assistant for the 2016 season.
Mark Tookey: Cult hero Tookey started out with the South Queensland Crushers before playing 40 games for Parramatta in 1998-99. The burly prop played the best football of his career during five seasons with the Vodafone Warriors, counting a grand final appearance in 2002 among 67 appearances for the club. Unlucky to not represent Queensland during his time in Auckland, the crowd favourite joined Castleford in 2004.
PJ Marsh: Gladstone (Queensland) product Marsh emerged as a livewire half/hooker for Parramatta in 2000, playing 34 NRL games in two seasons. After featuring in the Eels’ 2001 grand final loss, Marsh joined the Vodafone Warriors and helped spearhead the club’s drive to the ’02 grand final, as well as breaking into the Queensland Origin side. The brilliant dummy half suffered a career-threatening neck injury midway through 2003, halting his Vodafone Warriors tenure at 35 games. Marsh returned to the Eels in 2005 and extended his appearances tally for the club to 108, before earning a surprise Origin recall in 2008 while at the Broncos.
Henry Perenara: The back rower began his NRL career with three games for the Vodafone Warriors in 2000 before playing his sole Test for New Zealand from the Melbourne Storm in ’01. After a subsequent stint at St George Illawarra, Perenara played 11 games for Parramatta in 2005-06 and finished up with a season at Cronulla before moving into the refereeing ranks.
Danny Sullivan: Promising forward Sullivan’s five appearances for the Eels in 2001 culminated in a game off the bench in the 56-12 qualifying final demolition of the Vodafone Warriors. He linked with the Vodafone Warriors in 2004 but made just one appearance in the top grade before his career was ended by a chronic knee injury.
Wade McKinnon: Starting out with Souths, elusive fullback McKinnon played 51 games for Parramatta from 2004-06 before linking with the Vodafone Warriors as a replacement for Leeds-bound Brent Webb. McKinnon produced many highlights in four seasons in Auckland but his 54-game tenure was interrupted by injury and suspension. He made his sole appearance for NSW City in 2009 while at the club. The dynamic No.1 later enjoyed stints with Wests Tigers and Hull FC.
Ian Henderson: The hooker/loose forward started his first- grade career with the Roosters while a season at Parramatta in 2005 garnered just one NRL appearance. The Vodafone Warriors signed Henderson after he spent three seasons at Bradford and he played 65 games for the club from 2008-10, starring in the ’08 finals campaign. The Scotland international joined Les Catalans before a return to the NRL and the Roosters in 2016 ended with a horrific broken leg in just his second game.
Michael Witt: Sharpshooter half Witt scored 176 points in 27 games for Parramatta in 2003-04. After two seasons at Manly, Witt brought his talents to Auckland and scored 291 points in 43 games for the Vodafone Warriors, kicking at an astonishing 87.68 percent. Witt switched to rugby union with Otago in 2009, before returning to league with Celtic Crusaders, London Broncos and St George Illawarra.
Jeremy Latimore: Ultra-reliable forward Latimore began his NRL career with seven games for Parramatta in 2009 before making 24 appearances for the Vodafone Warriors in 2010-11. Latimore has provided excellent value in subsequent stints with St George Illawarra, Penrith and Cronulla.
Joe Galuvao: Auckland-born Galuvao cut his teeth as an explosive centre/fullback for the Warriors, playing 27 first grade games from 1998-2000. His career took off when he joined Penrith and switched to the back row, winning a premiership there in 2003 and becoming a Kiwi international. After two seasons at Souths, Galuvao rejuvenated his career with 34 games for Parramatta in 2008-09, culminating in another grand final appearance in the latter season (a loss to Melbourne). The evergreen forward linked with Manly and became part of a select group to play in grand finals with three clubs, celebrating in the Sea Eagles’ win over the Vodafone Warriors in 2011 decider. Galuvao retired in 2013 after 240 NRL appearances.
Feleti Mateo: Gifted ball player Mateo – primarily a back-rower but sometimes used at standoff – played 88 games for Parramatta from 2004-10 before helping the Vodafone Warriors to a grand final in his first year at the club. Mateo played 95 games in four seasons for the Vodafone Warriors (at one stage he had played 79 consecutive first grade games) but joined Manly in 2015.
Krisnan Inu: Another member of Parramatta’s 2009 grand final side to join the Vodafone Warriors in 2011 and endure another grand final defeat, utility back and Kiwi Test rep (after just one NRL game for the Eels) Inu scored 268 points in 78 games for the blue-and-golds. Inu’s 21-game stint with the Vodafone Warriors was certainly eventful – highlighted by the winning try against Wests Tigers in the 2011 semi-final – but he switched to the Bulldogs midway through 2012 and became just the second player in history to lose grand finals with three different clubs. Inu has been at Catalans for the past three seasons.
Paul Whatuira: Wiry centre Whatuira made a low-key NRL introduction with the Warriors in 2000, playing five games off the bench. After a season at Melbourne, the Wainuiomata junior was a key member of Penrith’s (2003) and Wests Tigers’ (2005) grand final-winning sides. The 16-Test Kiwi spent three seasons at Huddersfield, but retired after playing just one game for Parramatta in 2011.
Todd Lowrie: Scone-born Lowrie started out at Newcastle before playing 42 games for Parramatta from 2007-09. After playing in the Eels’ loss to the Storm in the ’09 grand final, the back rower joined Melbourne and won a premiership in 2012. He played 21 games for the Vodafone Warriors in 2013, before passing the 200-game mark during a final campaign with the Broncos in 2014.
Jonathan Wright: Jonathan Wright earned his NRL spurs at Parramatta, making 12 first grade appearances in 2009-10 before two-season stays at Canterbury (including a grand final appearance in 2012) and Cronulla. The outside-back played 29 games for the Vodafone Warriors in 2015-16, then joined Manly ahead of the 2017 season.
Jeff Robson: After playing just six games across five seasons for Manly, Robson emerged as a surprise hero of Parramatta’s charge to the 2009 grand final. The wily halfback played 61 games for the Eels from 2009-11 before providing excellent value in four seasons as Cronulla’s No 7. His move to the Vodafone Warriors in 2016 lasted just seven first grade outings, however, as he sought a mid-season release on compassionate grounds which would see him return to Parramatta. Robson has so far made another 10 NRL appearances for the blue-and-golds.
Suaia Matagi: An inspirational character who put a background in gangs and a jail term behind him to debut for the Vodafone Warriors in 2013, Matagi’s full-throttle charges earned him instant crowd-favourite status at Mt Smart. The rugged prop played 36 games for the Vodafone Warriors and represented both Samoa and New Zealand (against Samoa) but linked with the Roosters midway through 2015. After a strong season at Penrith in 2016, Matagi has forged a spot in the Parramatta pack this year.
Kieran Foran: Auckland-born five-eighth Foran became one of the NRL’s genuine superstars after debuting for Manly and breaking into the New Zealand Test side as a 19-year-old in 2009. Part of the Sea Eagles side that defeated the Vodafone Warriors in the 2011 grand final, Foran joined Parramatta in 2016 and was installed as captain but he played just nine games as injuries and well-documented personal problems derailed his campaign. The 20-Test Kiwi joined the Vodafone Warriors at the end of last year and, after a false start, made a sensational club debut against the Titans in round five of the 2017 season.