The Vodafone Warriors’ record against South Sydney is their second-best behind only Gold Coast among the NRL’s current clubs.
They have been infrequent opponents over the last six years, meeting each other just once in five of the last six seasons (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017) with home and away games only in 2013.
This week’s match will be the first time they’ve played in Sydney since the Vodafone Warriors won 48-16 in 2011 with the Rabbitohs playing ‘home’ games in Perth three times.
Overall record: Played 30 – Vodafone Warriors won 18, South Sydney won 12; Vodafone Warriors scored 833 points, South Sydney scored 614 points.
Biggest wins: Vodafone Warriors – 66-0 at Stadium Australia, 2006; South Sydney – 36-4 at nib Stadium, 2015.
Longest winning streaks: Vodafone Warriors – 12 matches (1999-2007); South Sydney – 5 matches (2013-16).
Most appearances: John Sutton (South Sydney) – 18; Stacey Jones (Vodafone Warriors) – 15; Simon Mannering (Vodafone Warriors) – 15; Nathan Merritt (South Sydney) – 15; Lance Hohaia (Vodafone Warriors) – 14; Manu Vatuvei (Vodafone Warriors) – 14.
Most tries: Nathan Merritt (South Sydney) – 9; Jerome Ropati (Vodafone Warriors) – 9; Lance Hohaia (Vodafone Warriors) – 8; Manu Vatuvei (Vodafone Warriors) – 8; Francis Meli (Vodafone Warriors) – 7; Brent Webb (Vodafone Warriors) – 7; Fetuli Talanoa (South Sydney) – 6.
Most points: Stacey Jones (Vodafone Warriors) – 55; Lance Hohaia (Vodafone Warriors) – 52; Tony Martin (Vodafone Warriors) – 50; Adam Reynolds (South Sydney) – 45; James Maloney (Vodafone Warriors) – 44; Nathan Merritt (South Sydney) – 38.
1995-1999 – Souths become a bogey
The Auckland Warriors’ first visit to the then-headquarters of rugby league, the Sydney Football Stadium, midway through their 1995 debut season garnered a 38-20 victory over South Sydney, with hooker Syd Eru scoring two tries. Eru bagged another double when the Rabbitohs made their maiden voyage to Auckland the following season, the Warriors prevailing 24-10.
But struggling Souths became a headache for the Warriors after the code came back together under the National Rugby League banner in 1998. The clubs faced off in the inaugural match of the NRL era, a Friday night round one clash in Auckland. The home side led 18-12 inside the final 20 minutes but the Rabbitohs pulled off a 24-18 upset after high-profile recruits Tim Brasher and Terry Hermansson scored late tries.
Locked in a battle to avoid the wooden spoon towards the end of the season, South Sydney extinguished the Warriors’ slim finals hopes with a 20-18 boilover at the SFS. A 12-8 loss at Mt Smart in 1999 continued the Warriors’ run of outs against the Rabbitohs.
The Vodafone Warriors began a 12-match winning streak against Souths late in 1999, featuring several merciless thrashings and cliff-hanger victories.
Round 21, 1999 – Short-handed Vodafone Warriors grab comeback win
The Warriors scored a miraculous 20-16 win over South Sydney at the SFS after trailing 10-6 at halftime and 16-10 with five minutes to go.
A Logan Swann try trimmed the deficit to two points before Tony Tuimavave dotted down for the match-winner, both late touchdowns set up by brilliant halfback Stacey Jones.
Hollywood actor Tom Cruise, draped in a red and green scarf, was on hand to watch the Rabbitohs capitulate in a body blow to their tenuous finals chances.
The Vodafone Warriors surged to 25-18 and 46-10 wins after Souths were readmitted to the NRL in 2002. A 38-16 drubbing followed early in ’03, before the heavyweight Vodafone Warriors squeezed past the last-placed Rabbitohs in extra-time mid-season.
Round 16, 2003 – Jones lands golden point match-winner
The mercurial Stacey Jones once again proved the Vodafone Warriors’ saviour, sinking South Sydney 31-30 in an epic golden point triumph.
The lowly Rabbitohs had opened up an imposing 24-6 lead early in the second half, but Jones’ try just before the hour mark opened the floodgates as the visitors ran in three more four-pointers in the space of 12 minutes to take a 30-24 lead.
South regrouped, however, and Justin Smith converted his own try two minutes from fulltime to send the match in extra-time. Jones then broke the Bunnies’ hearts in the third minute of golden point, landing a 35-metre field goal to clinch the win.
The Vodafone Warriors followed up that nail-biting result with five straight wins by 14 points or more, culminating in a history-making afternoon at Stadium Australia in 2006.
The visitors ran in 13 tries – including a hat-trick to interchange Lance Hohaia – as they decimated South Sydney to the tune of 66-0, a record loss for the foundation club and the heaviest defeat suffered by a home side in premiership history.
The Rabbitohs were devastated at the ineptitude of their performance, with coach Shaun McRae, captain Peter Cusack and chief executive Shane Richardson offering an apology to their exasperated fans, who booed the players from the field.
Round 7, 2007 – Rabbitohs feel the Byrne
The Vodafone Warriors pulled off arguably the most heart-stopping victory of 2007 against a shell-shocked South Sydney at Stadium Australia.
The Rabbitohs were the beneficiaries of some dubious video referee decisions, allowing them to overturn a halftime deficit and lead 16-8 in the dying minutes. But the Vodafone Warriors refused to throw in the towel and clung to a glimmer of hope when fullback Wade McKinnon scored a long-range try from a deft Steve Price offload.
Invoking their trademark helter-skelter style of attack, the Vodafone Warriors kept the ball alive with only seconds on the clock, and winger Todd Byrne latched onto an inch-perfect grubber from scheming standoff Michael Witt to seize a euphoric 18-16 victory.
The Rabbitohs went on to end an 18-year finals drought in ’07, while the Vodafone Warriors returned to the finals after a three-season absence.
2008-2014 – Rabbits on the rise
Inspired by debutant halfback Chris Sandow, South Sydney earned its first victory over the Vodafone Warriors in nine years midway through 2008.
The Rabbitohs trailed 0-14 in even time at Mt Smart but rallied to lead 18-14 at halftime. The Vodafone Warriors responded with three unanswered tries but Souths crossed for the last two touchdowns of the match before Sandow’s field goal clinched a 35-28 victory.
Souths backed it up with an 18-16 win at home just eight weeks later.
The strong Kiwi connection in the South Sydney line-ups – including Issac Luke, David Kidwell, Roy Asotasi, Nigel Vagana and David Fa’alogo – added a little extra spice to the rivalry.
Close, seesawing encounters between the clubs became the norm, with seven straight games decided by 10 points or less from 2006-2011.
The Vodafone Warriors’ tense 12-6 win midway through 2011 provided a moment of extreme embarrassment for enigmatic utility back Krisnan Inu, who broke into the clear and dropped down a couple of gears as he coasted towards the try-line before being mowed down by South Sydney’s rookie speed machine James Roberts.
The Vodafone Warriors snapped the close-fought trend in a 48-16 shellacking late in 2011, Manu Vatuvei scoring three of the eventual grand finalists’ nine tries. They hammered the Rabbitohs again early the following season, posting eight tries in a 44-22 result.
The rivals produced a pair of outstanding contests in 2013.
In round five, undefeated South Sydney led the last-placed Vodafone Warriors 18-6 at Mt Smart before the home side surged to take a four-point lead. But burgeoning Rabbitohs front rower George Burgess barged over for the match-winning try in just his eighth NRL appearance as the visitors held on for a 24-22 win.
Round 17, 2013 – Souths finishes strong in western shootout
South Sydney halted the Vodafone Warriors’ giant-killing run with a 30-13 victory in Perth in one of the season’s most absorbing clashes.
Souths winger Andrew Everingham opened the scoring after just six minutes from a freakish Adam Reynolds kick, but Shaun Johnson laid on the equaliser for Simon Mannering with a sweet pass before Vodafone Warriors wrecking ball Konrad Hurrell steamrolled Bryson Goodwin and Greg Inglis to score a stunning go-ahead try.
Johnson added a field goal for a 13-6 halftime lead. Kicks continued to prove vital to the Rabbitohs’ cause, leading to further tries by John Sutton and Goodwin as Souths reclaimed the lead in the 68th minute. Goodwin and Chris McQueen crossed inside the final six minutes to create a convincing end score-line that belied the closeness and quality of the encounter.
The keen combatants returned to Perth in 2014 and the Vodafone Warriors were on course for a major upset, ahead 14-6 after 49 minutes while the Rabbitohs’ superstar fullback Greg Inglis had failed to take the field after halftime.
But stand-in custodian Dylan Walker – who was later revealed to have suffered a broken thumb – spearheaded an incredible fight-back, scoring his second try and brilliantly setting up another among five unanswered four-pointers in a 34-18 triumph for the eventual premiers.
The Vodafone Warriors’ Perth hoodoo continued when they were routed by the Rabbitohs 36-4 in 2015, Walker again starring with a double and impending recruit Luke slotting six goals.
Out-of-contention Souths notched its fifth straight win in the rivalry and dealt a crucial blow to the Vodafone Warriors’ finals hopes in 2016, scoring a surprise 41-22 in round 23 – its biggest win in Auckland. The Vodafone Warriors were eighth heading into the match but the heavy loss to the Rabbitohs sparked a four-game losing streak to end the year.
They played for both clubs
Phil Blake: A freakishly-talented try-machine, Blake was a teenaged halfback star for Manly in the early-1980s but never fully realised his potential. After a renaissance at Souths that included 75 games from 1987-1990 and a State of Origin debut, the versatile livewire endured underwhelming stints with Norths, Canberra and St George, but finished his career with a memorable stay as a foundation Warrior. He scored the club’s first-ever try from fullback and crossed for four tries in its maiden win, finishing a 268-game career with 138 touchdowns.
Gene Ngamu: Ngamu was groomed as Cliff Lyons’ long-term five-eighth successor at Manly but after nine games in 1992-1993 (and a New Zealand Test debut in the latter season) he was dumped after signing with the Auckland Warriors for their 1995 debut season. He played one game for South Sydney during the bridging ’94 season. A veteran of 22 Tests for the Kiwis, Ngamu scored 287 points in 81 games for Auckland – including a club record 28 against North Queensland in 1996.
Manoa Thompson: Exciting outside-back Thompson scored 29 tries in 61 games for Souths from 1989-94. After spending 1994 with Western Suburbs, he played seven games in the Auckland Warriors’ foundation season but left to join Warrington at the end of the year.
Tyran Smith: Originally a winger, Smith stormed into the Kiwis after a big 1994 season at lock for Souths, who he played 52 games for. He arrived at the Warriors in 1998 via stints at North Queensland and Hunter Mariners, playing 10 games for the Auckland club before turning out for Balmain and Wests Tigers, and ended a colourful 188-game career with four seasons for Canberra (2002-05).
Terry Hermansson: Granite-like prop Hermansson played 45 games across two stints (1993-1994 and 1998) for Souths either side of a three-season stay with the Roosters. The four-Test Kiwi rep linked with the equally embattled Vodafone Warriors in 1999, playing 39 games over two seasons.
Jason Bell: Livewire centre/half Bell played 106 games in two stints with Parramatta between 1989 and ’99, spending a year at Norths before playing 58 games in three seasons for 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.
Jason Death: Former Canberra and North Queensland hooker/loose forward Death provided outstanding value to the Vodafone Warriors from 1999-2001, winning the club’s player of the year gong in his first season and playing 55 games. He joined Souths for its 2002 readmission campaign and made 44 appearances in three seasons.
Wade McKinnon: Starting out with Souths – playing 26 games in 2002-03 – elusive fullback McKinnon came of age at Parramatta from 2004-2006 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 regularly interrupted by injury and suspension – though he did manage his sole appearance for NSW City in 2009 while at the club. The dynamic No 1 later had stints with Wests Tigers and Hull FC.
Joe Galuvao: Auckland-born Galuvao cut his teeth as an explosive centre/fullback for the Warriors, playing 27 first grade games from 1998-2000 but 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 and 23 games at resurgent Souths (2007-08), 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.
Nigel Vagana: Tryscoring centre Vagana crossed 37 times in 71 games for the Warriors (1996-2000), but spent the best seasons of his career at the Bulldogs in the early-2000s before a three-year stint with Cronulla. The 37-Test veteran – who scored a then-record 19 tries for the Kiwis – was a prized signing for the Rabbitohs in 2007, playing 32 games for the club over two seasons. With 140 tries, Vagana remained the highest non-Australian try-scorer in premiership history at the end of 2014 until Manu Vatuvei went past him.
Dane Nielsen: Former Queensland Origin centre and Melbourne premiership winner Nielsen played 30 games for the Vodafone Warriors in 2013-2014, but his stint with St George Illawarra in 2015 garnered just two first grade outings. After a short-lived stint at Bradford, ‘Danger’ joined South Sydney and has seven NRL games for the club.
Issac Luke: Hawera-born Luke played 189 games in nine seasons for South Sydney (2007-2015), scoring 412 points for the club and making his New Zealand Test debut in 2008. The 2013 RLIF hooker of the year heartbreakingly missed the Rabbitohs’ 2014 grand final win through suspension and linked with the Vodafone Warriors at the end of the following season. ‘Bully’ has scored 94 points in 40 games for the Vodafone Warriors to date and extended his Kiwi record to 40 Tests.