The Vodafone Warriors’ 11-season rivalry with the Gold Coast Titans can be neatly divided into two parts, with the holiday strip-based club enjoying the early running before the Vodafone Warriors wrested control in 2011.
The large Kiwi ex-pat population in south-east Queensland has ensured big crowds whenever the Vodafone Warriors venture to the Gold Coast.
Overall record: Played 21 – Vodafone Warriors won 14, Gold Coast Titans won 7; Vodafone Warriors scored 524 points, Gold Coast Titans scored 388 points.
Biggest wins: Vodafone Warriors – 42-0 at Mt Smart Stadium, 2014; Gold Coast Titans – 30-10 at Mt Smart Stadium, 2009.
Longest winning streaks: Vodafone Warriors – 8 matches (2011-14); Gold Coast Titans – 6 matches (2008-10).
Finals: Played 1 – Gold Coast Titans won 1.
Most appearances: Simon Mannering (Vodafone Warriors) – 20; Manu Vatuvei (Vodafone Warriors) – 18; Ben Matulino (Vodafone Warriors) – 17; Nathan Friend (Vodafone Warriors & Gold Coast Titans) – 16; Jacob Lillyman (Vodafone Warriors) – 16; Mark Minichiello (Gold Coast Titans) – 15.
Most tries: Manu Vatuvei (Vodafone Warriors) – 11; Shaun Johnson (Vodafone Warriors) – 10; Konrad Hurrell (Vodafone Warriors & Gold Coast Titans) – 7; David Mead (Gold Coast Titans) – 7.
Most points: Shaun Johnson (Vodafone Warriors) – 96; Scott Prince (Gold Coast Titans) – 66; James Maloney (Vodafone Warriors) – 46.
The Auckland Warriors played the previous incarnations of the Gold Coast club three times. A Tea Ropati hat-trick spearheaded a 44-16 romp for the Warriors over the Seagulls at home in 1995, while current coach Stephen Kearney was among the try-scorers in a 28-14 win against the Chargers at Carrara the following season. A double from Chargers livewire Wes Patten laid the platform for a 31-18 upset for the soon-to-be defunct club during the 1998 NRL season.
2007-10 – Titans rack up winning streak
The Gold Coast Titans produced an admirable debut campaign in the NRL in 2007 but the Vodafone Warriors chalked up two convincing wins on their way to a top-four berth. A crowd of 17,608 turned out at Carrara Stadium to see the Vodafone Warriors prevail 22-6 in round 16 while six weeks later halfback Grant Rovelli notched a hat-trick and Jerome Ropati bagged a double in a 30-6 rout at Mt Smart Stadium.
The Titans outlasted the Vodafone Warriors 36-24 early in 2008 in front of a bumper crowd of 25,310 at the newly-opened Skilled Park at Robina. The clubs clashed twice in the second half of the 2009 season when the high-flying Titans won comfortably at home (28-12) and away (30-10) as the Vodafone Warriors dipped out of finals contention.
The rivals met in round one of 2010, with Titans fullback Preston Campbell inspiring a 24-18 victory. Meanwhile, a 28-20 late-season win at Mt Smart Stadium – with Vodafone Warriors great Clinton Toopi returning to the ground for the first time in Titans colours – proved crucial to the Titans finishing fourth ahead of the fifth-placed Vodafone Warriors.
Qualifying final, 2010 – Titans subdue Vodafone Warriors in gripping playoff
The Gold Coast Titans chalked up an historic maiden finals win by downing the Vodafone Warriors 28-16 at Skilled Park. The home side powered to a 22-6 halftime lead through a Will Zillman double and tries to Mat Rogers and ex- Vodafone Warrior Clinton Toopi, with the visitors’ only try scored by Aaron Heremia. A monumental comeback was in the offing when Joel Moon and Manu Vatuvei (who overtook Stacey Jones as the Vodafone Warriors’ greatest-ever try-scorer) posted the first two four-pointers of the second half, but the Titans sealed an absorbing finals opener when Kevin Gordon dotted down. The win was the Titans’ sixth in succession over the Vodafone Warriors, who were subsequently bundled out of the finals later that weekend courtesy of the fickle McIntyre finals system format.
2011-16 – Vodafone Warriors turn the tables
The Vodafone Warriors wasted no time in gaining revenge for their finals exit at the hands of the Titans the previous season, racking up a pair of emphatic wins over the eventual wooden-spooners in 2011. A David Mead hat-trick wasn’t enough for the Titans as they went down 34-14 to the Vodafone Warriors at home, with James Maloney posting 18 points. The Vodafone Warriors won 22-6 later in the season on their way to another finals berth.
It was a similar story in 2012, with Shaun Johnson scoring a double to lead the Vodafone Warriors to a 26-6 home win and a treble from rookie centre Konrad Hurrell highlighting a 32-14 result on the road. The Vodafone Warriors gained an instant crowd favourite that season in the form of foundation Titan Nathan Friend. The gap closed the following season, but the Vodafone Warriors managed wins in Auckland and Gold Coast for the third straight year…just.
The Vodafone Warriors led the Titans 24-6 at a rain-soaked Mt Smart in round eight of the 2013 season, before the visitors staged a withering second half fight-back. A Shaun Johnson field goal gave the hosts a crucial seven-point buffer before Anthony Don’s late try made the final score 25-24.
Round 24, 2013 - Vodafone Warriors stay alive with nail-biting win
The Vodafone Warriors held on for a heart-stopping 24-22 win over the Titans in a high-stakes clash at Skilled Park. With both sides striving to stay in the finals race, the Titans got out to a 16-10 halftime lead thanks to a Ryan James double. A memorable solo try by Konrad Hurrell levelled the scores and Shaun Johnson laid on Jerome Ropati’s second to give the Vodafone Warriors their first lead of the game in the 62nd minute. Trailing by eight with four minutes left, the Titans set up a grandstand finish when Anthony Don zipped over in the corner. But in unbelievable scenes, Gold Coast winger Kevin Gordon was denied a match-winning try when he spectacularly regathered a kick only to plant it on the dead-ball line. The result saw the Vodafone Warriors join the Titans in a five-team logjam in equal-eighth with two rounds remaining, but both teams were ultimately shaded by the Cowboys.
Rookie winger David Fusitu’a scored a double in a 24-16 away win in 2014, while Sam Tomkins bagged a brace of tries and Shaun Johnson scored 18 points in a 42-0 shutout at Mt Smart as the Vodafone Warriors extended their winning streak against the Titans to eight games.
The Titans scored a drought-breaking 32-28 win in Auckland as part of the NRL’s five-match schedule on Anzac Day, 2015. New No 7 Kane Elgey scored two tries for the visitors in that clash, but Vodafone Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson produced one of his finest displays in the return clash at Cbus Super Stadium in round 15, scoring two dazzling tries and kicking six from six for a 20-point haul.
Johnson’s long-range solo try was the highlight of a 27-18 success at Mt Smart in round 17 of the 2016 campaign, before the arrival of a superstar on the holiday strip set up a feverishly-anticipated clash between the finals contenders at Robina five weeks later.
Round 22, 2016 - Vodafone Warriors spoil Hayne’s party
The Titans’ biggest home crowd in five years turned out for Jarryd Hayne’s first game for the club, but the Vodafone Warriors threw the fairy-tale script out the window with a high-quality 24-14 win in front of 25,109 supporters. In an absorbing first half, the Vodafone Warriors scored first via a spectacular David Fusitu’a try but Konrad Hurrell – who linked with the Titans from the Vodafone Warriors mid-season – scored to create a 10-all halftime deadlock, while Hayne came up with a number of big plays. But intercepts by Fusitu’a, which led to a Solomone Kata try, and Kata himself, who plucked a Hayne pass out of the air and raced 90 metres for an unforgettable four-pointer, put the Vodafone Warriors on course for victory. The Vodafone Warriors subsequently missed the finals after losing their four remaining games while the Titans ended a six-year finals absence by scraping into eighth spot.
They played for both clubs
Clinton Toopi: Regarded by many as the greatest centre in the Vodafone Warriors’ history, Toopi debuted in 1999 and scored 57 tries in 129 games for the club. The 22-Test Kiwi joined Leeds Rhinos late in 2006, but returned to the NRL with the Titans in 2010, playing 27 games in two seasons.
Nathan Friend: After several seasons as a fringe player with Brisbane and Melbourne, hardworking hooker Friend joined the fledgling Titans and became the first player to make 100 appearances for the club. He joined the Vodafone Warriors in 2012 and was one of their most consistent performers in a four-season stint that garnered 86 appearances. The evergreen No 9 returned to the Gold Coast for a farewell season in 2016, retiring after playing another 21 games for the Titans.
Dominique Peyroux: Auckland-born Peyroux played his junior footy for Otahuhu, Mangere East and Papatoetoe, but he earned his NRL spurs with the Titans in 2011, playing 16 games in the top flight across two seasons. The centre/back-rower returned to Auckland in 2013 and played 25 first-grade games for the Vodafone Warriors, while also representing Cook Islands and Toa Samoa during his stint at the club.
Bodene Thompson: A Tauranga City Sharks product, Thompson played 49 games in four seasons for the Titans (2009-12) and represented New Zealand Maori. Predominantly a back-rower, Thompson proved a useful centre option and played 36 games for Wests Tigers in 2013-14 before returning to New Zealand with the Vodafone Warriors in 2015. Thompson has scored 13 tries in 43 appearances to date for the Vodafone Warriors, and is unlucky to have not earned his Kiwis Test stripes (although he was in the New Zealand squad for the 2014 Four Nations).
Agnatius Paasi: Born in Tonga, Paasi came through the Mangere East junior ranks before featuring in the Vodafone Warriors’ NYC grand final win in 2011, the same year he played for the Junior Kiwis. He ultimately played just one first grade game for the club – in 2014 – before enjoying a breakout season with the Titans in 2015, featuring in 18 games. After starring at the NRL Auckland Nines at the start of 2016, the dynamic forward played all 25 games as a key figure in the Titans’ surge to the finals. He has played four times this season.
Konrad Hurrell: An explosive, crowd-pleasing centre who starred in the Vodafone Warriors’ 2011 NYC grand final success, Hurrell stormed onto the NRL scene in 2012 with 12 tries in 17 games. The backline powerhouse scored 41 tries in 71 first grade games for the Vodafone Warriors, but made a mid-season switch to the Titans in 2016 after struggling to nail down a permanent spot in the top side. Hurrell has scored nine tries in 20 games to date for the Titans, and featured in their finals appearance last season.
- Nathaniel Peteru, a former NYC player with the Vodafone Junior Warriors, didn’t make an NRL appearance during his time in the Vodafone Warriors’ NRL squad but has gone on to play 13 times for Titans since 2015; another ex-Vodafone Junior Warriors Mark Ioane played 24 NRL matches for Gold Coast from 2013-15 while another ex-Vodafone Junior Warrior Matt Robinson appeared for the Titans in 2015.
- Players who appeared for previous Gold Coast franchises (pre-Titans) as well as the Warriors have been: Lee Oudenryn, Kevin Campion and David Myles.
- New Zealander Leivaha Pulu has made 35 appearances for the Titans over the last two seasons but will leave club to join the Vodafone Warriors next year.