Three Northland products, two of whom have trophies named in their honour, are in line to feature when the Vodafone Warriors and Wests Tigers clash in their preseason double header at the Northland Events Centre in Whangarei on Saturday, March 2.
The Northland Clash begins at 2.15pm with an Intrust Super Premiership trial between the Vodafone Warriors and the Western Suburbs Magpies – the Tigers’ feeder club – followed by the Vodafone Warriors and the Tigers going head-to-head in an NRL hit-out at 5.00pm.
It will be a special occasion for the Northland-raised duo Adam Blair and Elijah Taylor as they face the prospect of being opponents against former clubs; Blair played 71 times for Wests Tigers from 2012-2014 while Taylor made 67 appearances for the Vodafone Warriors from 2011-2013.
Whangarei-born Blair (32), entering his second season with the Vodafone Warriors, was brought up on a farm in Panguru, a small settlement on the northern Hokianga Harbour, while Taylor (28) spent his formative years 35km further north in Herekino.
It’s expected Whangarei-born half Paul Turner (19) will also figure on the day, turning out for the Vodafone Warriors in the ISP trial. He has made 30 under-20 appearances in all for the club, scoring nine tries in 18 Jersey Flegg Cup outings in 2018.
Blair had a homecoming experience in 2014 when he lined up for the Kiwis in their Four Nations clash against Toa Samoa at Northland’s premier sporting venue.
Taylor played at the then-Toll Stadium when the Vodafone Warriors beat Queensland Cup side the Burleigh Bears 30-0 in a preseason match in 2011. The following year the club faced the Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles in a trial in Whangarei but, while Taylor made community appearances in the lead-up the match, he didn’t play.
The two Kiwi internationals both have trophies named after them for Northland junior football – the Adam Blair Trophy for the Northland Secondary Schools competition and the Elijah Taylor Cup for the under-15 championship.
Vodafone Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney is committed to fielding his strongest possible squad for the March 2 trial, the final workout for the club before the season opener against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Mount Smart Stadium on March 16 (5.00pm kick-off).
The event brings together former Kiwi coach Kearney and current national head coach Michael Maguire, who is embarking on his first campaign with the Tigers.
As well as their Kiwi coaching connection, Kearney and Maguire have Melbourne Storm links in common. They both served their coaching apprenticeships with the Storm under Craig Bellamy and then went on to coach against each other when Kearney was with the Parramatta Eels and Maguire with the Rabbitohs in 2012.
The Whangarei match-up offers a tantalising prospect for fans with the prospect of as many as 18 current or past Kiwis being on show.
The Vodafone Warriors have seven players from their 2019 squad who were involved in the Kiwis’ campaign against Australia and England – 2018 Kiwi rookie of the year Ken Maumalo, Peta Hiku, Gerard Beale, Agnatius Paasi, Isaiah Papali’i, Blair and new signing Leeson Ah Mau while they also boast Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Issac Luke and Tohu Harris as well as Tonga internationals David Fusitu’a and Solomone Kata, who have also played for the Kiwis.
Wests Tigers have centre Esan Marsters from the Kiwi party in England as well as former Kiwis Benji Marshall, Ben Matulino, Russell Packer and Taylor. Other New Zealand-born players in their squad include Michael Chee-Kam, Josh Aloiai and Thomas Mikaele.
As well as having both teams in Whangarei for their NRL and ISP trials, the Vodafone Warriors will be out and about in the area making a number of community appearances during the days leading up to game day.
It will the fourth time the Vodafone Warriors have held a trial in Whangarei. They staged New South Wales Cup hit-outs there in 2011 and 2012 and an NRL trial against the Gold Coast Titans in 2016.
- Tickets and corporate hospitality
- Tickets are available from www.ticketrocket.co.nz and Forum North Box Office, Rust Avenue, Whangarei.
- Grandstand | Adult $30, child $15.
- GA terraces/embankment | Adult $15, child $10.
- For corporate hospitality options email rachel.o’email@example.com