Ethnic diversity has been and always will be a cornerstone of the Vodafone Warriors’ make-up.
Run through the club’s all-time roster – now numbering 243 players – and you’ll find a fascinating collection of ethnicities and cultures. It’s a veritable league of nations.
Which has been the catalyst to approach the NRL’s regular Team Naming Tuesday from a new tangent by naming special ‘best of’ Vodafone Warriors teams while the 2020 competition is suspended.
For today's TNT in association with Alternative Commentary Collective (ACC), warriors.kiwi is announcing a selection of the club’s best players of Tongan heritage including one from the line-up that faced the Brisbane Broncos on opening night on March 10, 1995 – hooker Duane Mann – through to two in the current squad (David Fusitu’a and Agnatius Paasi).
There’s quality aplenty in the outside backs with Fusitu’a moving to fullback to accommodate current All Black midfielder Ngani Laumape on one wing (where he debuted for the Vodafone Warriors in 2013), the club’s all-time record try scorer Manu Vatuvei on the other wing and the twin power-packs Konrad Hurrell and Solomone Kata in the centres. Vatuvei leads the way with his stunning strike rate of 152 tries (equal 11th best in NRL history) in 226 appearances with the five outside backs boasting an exceptional combined total of 310 tries in 518 games for the Vodafone Warriors.
Up front the impressive Sio Siua Taukeiaho is partnered in the front row by the wrecking ball that was Richard Villasanti when he was in the club’s colours in the 2001-2006 era (96 games).
Club great Awen Guttenbeil (170 games from 1996-2006) is in the second row with former teammate Louis Anderson, who followed his 67 games for Vodafone Warriors from 2004-2007 with a total of almost 250 for Warrington and Les Catalans in the Super League before retiring in 2018. At loose forward is the versatile and skilful former Tonga captain Feleti Mateo (95 games for the Vodafone Warriors from 2011-2014).
The bench wants for nothing in terms of size and impact in the shape of current Canberra hooker Siliva Havili, Ukuma Ta’ai, Paasi and Epalahame Lauaki.
Other contenders included Bill Tupou, Glen Fisiiahi, Sione Lousi, Cooper Vuna, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Albert Vete, Leivaha Pulu and Tevita Latu.
In following weeks, look out for the Samoan Warriors, Maori Warriors and Australian Warriors as well as a Kiwi Warriors side made up of the club’s best Kiwi internationals. Also on the agenda is a side of the best New Zealand NRL players from across all clubs throughout history.
Aside from those selections, a team comprising players of other nationalities or ethnicities is in the pipeline, providing an avenue for those from the all-time roster who are of Indigenous Australian heritage, have hailed from the United Kingdom as well as those who can trace their heritage/birth or both to Armenia, Laos, Niue, Cook Islands, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, France, Fiji, Norway, China, Italy, Greece and Afghanistan.
TONGAN WARRIORS 1995-2020
|1||David FUSITU’A||Vodafone Warrior #189|
|2||Ngani LAUMAPE||Vodafone Warrior #180|
|3||Konrad HURRELL||Vodafone Warrior #172|
|4||Solomone KATA||Vodafone Warrior #193|
|5||Manu VATUVEI||Vodafone Warrior #115|
|6||Vinnie ANDERSON||Vodafone Warrior #100|
|7||Tuimoala LOLOHEA||Vodafone Warrior #192|
|8||Richard VILLASANTI||Vodafone Warrior #87|
|9||Duane MANN||Vodafone Warrior #9|
|10||Sio SiuaTAUKEIAHO||Vodafone Warrior #184|
|11||Awen GUTTENBEIL||Vodafone Warrior #33|
|12||Louis ANDERSON||Vodafone Warrior #112|
|13||Feleti MATEO||Vodafone Warrior #164|
|14||Siliva HAVILI||Vodafone Warrior #190|
|15||Ukuma TA’AI||Vodafone Warrior #149|
|16||Agnatius PAASI||Vodafone Warrior #191|
|17||Epalahame LAUAKI||Vodafone Warrior #110|