The rivalry with the Broncos kicked off via an epic contest in the Auckland Warriors’ 1995 premiership debut. Competition between the two clubs has consequently held a special place in the Auckland-based club’s narrative ever since and has produced many thrillers, brutal encounters and memorable blowouts.
Overall record: Played 38 – Brisbane won 22, Vodafone Warriors won 16; Brisbane scored 835 points, Vodafone Warriors scored 738 points.
Biggest wins: Brisbane – 44-6 at QEII Stadium, 1995; Vodafone Warriors – 56-18 at Suncorp Stadium, 2013.
Longest winning streaks: Brisbane – 9 matches (1995-2000); Vodafone Warriors – 4 matches (2002-03).
Finals: Played 1 – Brisbane won 1.
Most appearances: Darren Lockyer (Brisbane) – 25; Corey Parker (Brisbane) – 24; Simon Mannering (Vodafone Warriors) – 20; Sam Thaiday (Brisbane) – 19; Petero Civoniceva (Brisbane) – 17; Stacey Jones (Vodafone Warriors) – 17; Manu Vatuvei (Vodafone Warriors) – 17.
Most tries: Shaun Berrigan (Brisbane and Vodafone Warriors) – 9; Michael De Vere (Brisbane) – 9; Francis Meli (Vodafone Warriors) – 7; Manu Vatuvei (Vodafone Warriors) – 7; Darren Lockyer (Brisbane) – 6; Wendell Sailor (Brisbane) – 6.
Most points: Michael De Vere (Brisbane) – 88; Corey Parker (Brisbane) – 66; Shaun Johnson (Vodafone Warriors) – 65; James Maloney (Vodafone Warriors) – 56; Darren Lockyer (Brisbane) – 55; Stacey Jones (Vodafone Warriors) – 43.
1995-2000 – Broncos unbeatable after maiden classic
Round 1, 1995 – Warriors come up just short in thrilling premiership entrance
The Auckland Warriors’ feverishly-anticipated premiership debut met all expectations but the match-winning class of Allan Langer was the key factor in Brisbane’s pulsating 25-22 win in front of 29,220 rabid fans at Ericsson Stadium. International three-quarters Willie Carne and Chris Johns propelled the visitors to a 10-0 lead after 15 minutes before veteran fullback Phil Blake netted the Warriors’ first-ever try five minutes later – a cracking touchdown featuring brilliant work from Manoa Thompson and Whetu Taewa. Subsequent tries to Sean Hoppe, Tony Tatupu and Tea Ropati had the Auckland crowd in raptures, their team leading the heavyweight Broncos 22-10, 10 minutes into the second half. Two quick-fire individual tries by Langer, who had a point to prove after being deposed from the Test team by Ricky Stuart on the ’94 Kangaroo Tour, evened the scoreboard, however, and Julian O’Neill edged the Broncos to victory with a penalty and a field goal – but not before withstanding a furious Warriors attacking foray in the dying seconds.
The Warriors voyaged to Brisbane for the first time in the last round of their debut season, needing a victory to snare a finals berth. But their hopes were dashed by a red-hot Broncos side, pummelled 44-6 as Steve Renouf ran in four tries. The match attracted the Broncos’ biggest home crowd of the season at QEII Stadium – 54,645.
The clubs were drawn to play each other in the opening round of 1996 as the Super League-ARL battle waged on. All rebel clubs forfeited their round one matches – with the exception of the Warriors, who were prepared to send a team of players from the domestic Lion Red Cup competition in the Super League-aligned stars’ stead. The Broncos stood by their decision to forfeit, and Auckland picked up the easiest two premiership points imaginable. The Warriors again headed into the final round with a slim chance of a top-eight spot if they could topple the Broncos, but they were subjected to a 38-6 hiding at home.
Brisbane and Auckland kicked off the 1997 Super League premiership at QEII Stadium, a lacklustre 14-2 win to the host, while the Broncos cruised to a 34-18 victory in the return clash at Ericsson two months later. Those results – and the teams’ comparative performances that year – offered no indication of the epic struggle that was to unfold in the maligned World Club Challenge competition’s knockout stages.
Super League World Club Challenge Semi-Final, 1997 – Brisbane outlasts gallant Warriors
Rank disappointments in the Super League premiership, Auckland produced its best performance of the year in a courageous loss to dominant champion Brisbane in the World Club Challenge semi-final. The high-profile clubs produced the finest match of the unpopular tournament – and one of most intense contests of the Super League season – despite the paltry 9686 turn-out in Brisbane. Halfback Ben Walker, deputising for Allan Langer, scored two tries for the Broncos to cancel out Warriors wing Lee Oudenryn’s double as the home side turned a 10-all halftime score-line into a 22-16 victory.
Despite their ever-worsening plight on and off the field during the late-1990s, the Warriors regularly saved some of their best efforts for the perennially high-flying Broncos but still remained winless in the rivalry at the end of 2000 after nine premiership meetings.
2001-03 – Reborn Vodafone Warriors break Broncos bogey
The Vodafone Warriors came of age in 2001 and they used a landmark victory over defending premiers Brisbane as a springboard. A Stacey Jones field goal seven minutes from fulltime proved the difference in a 13-12 triumph in Auckland – the club’s maiden win over the Broncos. Coach Daniel Anderson described the victory as a “big psychological breakthrough”, while the club qualified for its belated first finals series that season. Rugged forward Kevin Campion had joined the Vodafone Warriors after featuring in the Broncos’ 2000 grand final success and co-captained the Vodafone Warriors with Jones in the win over his former club.
The Vodafone Warriors’ burgeoning status was helped along by two wins over the Broncos in the second half of 2002. Cairns junior Brent Webb, who spurned the Broncos to take up a contract in Auckland, scored a scintillating double off the bench in his ninth NRL appearance to spearhead a 26-16 win in Round 16 as the Vodafone Warriors broke their duck in Brisbane. In Round 23, the Vodafone Warriors’ irresistible attacking flair and newfound defensive steel set up an 18-4 victory at Ericsson as they surged towards the minor premiership. Campion memorably decked former Brisbane and Queensland teammate (and renowned tough guy) Shane Webcke during a play-the-ball altercation.
The Vodafone Warriors’ physicality and unstoppable adlib play caused further problems for the Broncos in 2003, chalking up back-to-back victories for the second straight season. Enigmatic winger Francis Meli ran riot in an early-season win at QEII Stadium, scoring a freakish first half double before setting up Queensland Origin hooker PJ Marsh for a long-range try in an emphatic 32-12 result that was capped by Sione Faumuina’s audacious no-look overhead pass for Evarn Tuimavave to dot down.
Round 24, 2003 – Vodafone Warriors prevail in brutal Auckland showdown
NRL contenders the Vodafone Warriors and Brisbane produced arguably the most physical and fiery clash of 2003 as the clubs desperately jostled for finals spots. Richard Villasanti set the tone early with a thunderous hit that left Australian Test prop Shane Webcke dazed, while Vodafone Warriors pair Monty Betham and Wairangi Koopu, and Broncos duo Casey McGuire and Carl Webb, were despatched to the sin-bin later in the first half following a wild brawl that saw noted pugilist Betham pummel diminutive utility McGuire. Brent Tate was stretchered off with a season-ending shoulder injury after being ironed out by Francis Meli. But when the fireworks settled, the Vodafone Warriors were too strong, turning a 4-all halftime deadlock into an important 22-14 victory to leapfrog the Broncos into sixth spot.
2004-11 – Remarkable ebb and flow as rivalry blossoms
The Vodafone Warriors-Broncos rivalry settled into a fascinating pattern, with one side winning two games then the other winning two games, and so on, for the next eight seasons. Auckland-born 17-year-old Karmichael Hunt made his first-grade debut in the fullback spot vacated by Darren Lockyer in a 28-20 opening-round thriller in 2004 as the Broncos broke a four-match losing streak against the New Zealanders. Another Auckland product, Broncos utility Greg Eastwood, returned home to burn the Vodafone Warriors with two tries off the bench in a hard-fought 23-18 win in 2006.
Although they were well out of top-eight contention, the Vodafone Warriors downed the front-running Broncos twice in 2005. They also won sole clashes in 2007 and ’08 as they returned to contender status. The Vodafone Warriors achieved a major coup midway through ’07, trumpeting the signing of Brisbane’s representative stalwart Brent Tate on a three-year deal. After a strong first-up year in Auckland, however, Tate suffered a season-ending knee injury against his former club just three weeks into the 2009 premiership.
But Tate starred as the Vodafone Warriors subjected Brisbane to two embarrassing defeats in 2010. Unheralded half James Maloney chalked up a club record-equalling 28 points from three tries and eight goals in the Vodafone Warriors’ stunning 48-16 win in Round 3 – the highest score ever conceded by the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium at the time. On the penultimate weekend of the regular season, the Vodafone Warriors produced an astounding exhibition of wet-weather football at Mt Smart in a 36-4 rout, effectively consigning the Broncos to their first non-finals finish since 1991.
Round 22, 2011 – Broncos pip Vodafone Warriors in late-season gem
A late Peter Wallace field goal thrust Brisbane to a heart-stopping 21-20 victory over the ever-dangerous Vodafone Warriors in one of 2011’s best matches at Suncorp Stadium. Broncos talisman Darren Lockyer set up fellow veteran Justin Hodges for the first try in just the fifth minute, but rookie Vodafone Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson – making just his eighth NRL appearance – responded with the arguably the individual try of the year, a searing 75-metre effort. Fullback Kevin Locke finished off an equally stunning four-pointer after a James Maloney chip-and-chase to set up a 12-4 lead, delighting the large Kiwi contingent in the crowd, but the home side ran in three unanswered tries to craft their own eight-point advantage. Former Broncos star Shaun Berrigan, who linked with the Vodafone Warriors in 2011 after three seasons at Hull, plunged over at his old home ground to narrow the gap and Maloney equalised with a penalty. Johnson’s long-range 77th-minute field goal attempt fell agonisingly under the cross-bar, before Wallace’s 21-metre snap with 100 seconds left sealed the win.
Qualifying final, 2011 – Broncos spank error-riddled Vodafone Warriors
Little more than a month after their classic encounter at the same ground, Brisbane walloped the woefully inept Vodafone Warriors 40-10 in a qualifying final mismatch in front of 48,943 supporters at Suncorp Stadium. The Broncos were in irresistible touch, posting the first four tries of the match to lead 24-0. A second-half rally – featuring back-to-back tries to Feleti Mateo and Manu Vatuvei – briefly raised hopes of a miracle comeback, but it was quickly doused by three Broncos tries inside the final 10 minutes.
2012-16 – Vodafone Warriors get traction
The Vodafone Warriors crafted an impressive 30-20 win at home in 2012, before the Broncos snapped the two-win, two-loss sequence with a gripping 10-8 victory later that season as the Vodafone Warriors tumbled down the ladder. After starting the following campaign in disastrous fashion – winning just three of their first 11 games – the Vodafone Warriors returned to form in an incredible away win in Brisbane.
Round 12, 2013 – Vodafone Warriors rocket back to prominence in record road romp
The previously out-of-form Vodafone Warriors emphatically announced their 2013 campaign was not dead and buried, destroying an Origin-depleted Broncos side 56-18 in a spectacular Monday night display. Glen Fisiiahi, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei and Thomas Leuluai each bagged doubles in the 10-try drubbing, which featured the Vodafone Warriors at their unstoppable offensive best. Both of Leuluai’s first-half tries came from backing up remarkable kick-and-regather efforts, by Feleti Mateo and Kevin Locke respectively, while Vatuvei’s 75-metre runaway try just after halftime was arguably the highlight. Two late Vodafone Warriors tries saw the overpowered Broncos concede 50 points at home for the first time in their history.
A dramatic 95-metre intercept try by Hurrell in the 71st minute snatched an 18-16 win at Mt Smart four weeks later, while they chalked up a tough 19-10 win at the same venue midway through 2014. Just four weeks separated the keen rivals’ return clash once again, with the Ben Hunt and Dale Copley-inspired Broncos grabbing a momentous 28-22 win at home. Three Broncos players had been dumped in the lead-up for an ill-advised midweek drinking session, but the embattled hosts overturned an early 12-0 deficit to run out deserving winners – largely thanks to Copley’s brilliant second-half double.
The Round 19 result proved crucial to teams’ respective finals hopes; the Broncos scraped into eighth spot courtesy of a for-and-against figure a mere 13 points superior to that of the ninth-placed Vodafone Warriors.
In December 2014, a 20th anniversary match between the Vodafone Warriors and Broncos at Mt Smart was announced for Round 4 of the 2015 premiership. But it was ultimately a tough day for New Zealand sports fans – the Vodafone Warriors’ 24-16 loss preceded the Black Caps’ crushing defeat to Australia in the Cricket World Cup final at the MCG.
The Broncos powered to a 25-10 home win over an injury-hit Vodafone Warriors side early in 2016, but a trademark mid-season revival by the Auckland-based club kicked off with a rampant 36-18 victory over the Origin-weary Broncos highlighted by a dazzling David Fusitu’a double.
Allan Langer v Stacey Jones: ‘Alfie’ was established as one of the all-time great halfbacks when teenaged rookie Stacey Jones burst onto the premiership scene in 1995. The brilliant, instinct-driven linchpins waged several memorable battles but Langer came out on top in all 10 of their meetings – for Brisbane, Super League Queensland, Super League Australia and the Australian Test side – prior to his shock retirement in 1999. Langer’s return for one last NRL season in 2002 gave Jones an opportunity to finally get one up on the old master, which he did in the Vodafone Warriors’ watershed 26-16 victory in Brisbane, prior to winning that year’s Golden Boot award.
Played for both clubs
Kevin Campion: Former Gold Coast, St George and Adelaide journeyman Campion won premierships with the Broncos in 1998 and 2000, before joining the Vodafone Warriors. He was a key factor in the Vodafone Warriors’ rise to credibility, helping the club to its maiden finals series in 2001 and a landmark grand final appearance the following season, consequently becoming just the fourth player ever to play in deciders for three different clubs. The tough, versatile forward played four Origins for Queensland during his two-year stint in Auckland and finished his career with the Cowboys.
Motu Tony: Livewire utility Tony, who made his NRL debut for the Vodafone Warriors and his Test debut for the Kiwis in 2001, featured at standoff in the club’s watershed grand final appearance the following season after scoring a memorable try in the previous week’s preliminary triumph. After scoring 23 tries in 55 games for the Vodafone Warriors, Tony became the first ex-Vodafone Warriors player to turn out for the Broncos although his stint in Brisbane garnered just three games in 2004. He went on to play for Castleford, Hull FC and Wakefield Trinity in Super League, finishing with 13 Test appearances for New Zealand.
Brent Tate: The courageous Tate, who overcame multiple serious injuries to carve out an admirable and decorated career, played 114 games for the Broncos and featured in the club’s 2006 premiership triumph. He linked with the Vodafone Warriors in 2008 for three seasons, becoming just their third Australian Test player, before joining the Cowboys and enjoying a remarkable representative renaissance until yet another season-ending knee injury brought the curtain down on his career in 2014.
PJ Marsh: Gladstone (Qld) 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. But 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. After 15 first grade games for the Broncos, Marsh’s NRL career wound up in 2009.
Denan Kemp: After debuting for the Broncos in 2007, elusive winger Kemp enjoyed a stunning breakout year in ’08 with 19 tries in 24 games – including a four-try haul and the last-second match-winner in an unforgettable win over Parramatta. Kemp joined the Vodafone Warriors for the following season but he was unable to recapture that form, departing after only 10 appearances and just one try, though he did land a clutch conversion to sink defending premiers Manly early in the year. He rejoined the Broncos for 2010 and scored the winning try in their season-opening defeat of the Cowboys but injuries derailed his campaign and he played his last NRL game before his 23rd birthday. Kemp now runs the highly successful video podcast series The Locker Room.
Joel Moon: Versatile back Moon played 31 games for the Broncos from 2006-08 before being snapped up by the Vodafone Warriors. A regular at centre or five-eighth, Caloundra-born Moon played 51 games for the Vodafone Warriors to the end of 2011, and has spent the past six seasons with Leeds Rhinos after a bridging year with Salford City.
Brett Seymour: Regarded as Allan Langer’s heir apparent after debuting for the Broncos as a 17-year-old in 2002, injuries dictated that classy halfback Seymour played just 62 first grade games for the club before linking with Cronulla in 2007. Seymour played 22 games for the Vodafone Warriors in 2010-11, then joined Super League club Hull FC.
Shaun Berrigan: One of the great utilities, former Test centre and Origin half Berrigan won the Clive Churchill Medal at hooker in the Broncos’ 2006 grand final victory. After 188 games for Brisbane, 15 Origins for Queensland and 14 Tests for Australia, Berrigan spent three years in England with Hull, but returned to the NRL with the Vodafone Warriors in 2011. He managed 19 games, but slipped out of first grade contention late in the season and missed the club’s charge to the grand final, joining Canberra the following season.
Nathan Friend: Toowoomba product Friend made his NRL debut in the famous Origin-depleted ‘Baby Broncos’ defeat of Wests Tigers in 2002 under Brisbane assistant coach Craig Bellamy – which would ultimately prove his only top grade appearance for the club – before joining Bellamy at Melbourne in 2003. The hooker played 34 games across four seasons, culminating in an appearance off the bench in the Storm’s 2006 grand final loss. A mainstay during the Titans’ first five seasons, Friend joined the Vodafone Warriors in 2012 and played 86 games in four years – including a club record 72 starts at hooker – a stint perhaps best remembered for his freakish upside-down pass against the Storm that won the Headline Moment of the Year at the 2015 Dally Ms. Friend finished an admirable 242-game career back at the Titans in 2016.
Todd Lowrie: A highly-rated member of Melbourne’s 2012 grand final side, former Newcastle and Parramatta lock Lowrie played 64 games for the Storm before heading to the Vodafone Warriors in 2013. The move lasted just one season, however, seeking a compassionate release to join the Broncos after 21 games in Vodafone Warriors colours. The Scone-born workhorse played 18 games for the Broncos in 2014.
James Gavet: Bruising forward Gavet made a solitary appearance for Canterbury in 2012, and arrived at the Vodafone Warriors via stints at Wests Tigers and Brisbane, with a season-ending injury restricting him to just one game for the latter. Gavet made 10 first grade appearances and made his Test debut for Samoa during 2016, before establishing himself as a permanent member of the Vodafone Warriors’ pack in 2017.