When asked about their career highlights, players will quickly list their NRL debut, no matter whether they played one or 300-plus games.
Also special for any player is scoring a try in the NRL, any try and every try. Even one. Just ask the 26 players who have scored only one try for the Vodafone Warriors.
Better still, ask the 50 without a try to their name for the club. And it’s no different at the other end of the scale either for Manu Vatuvei with 152 of them.
But if a debut’s way up there then a first NRL try for the club isn’t too far behind.
Like Stacey Jones scoring on debut against the Eels in 1995, Shaun Johnson in his second NRL appearance against Wests Tigers in 2011 or Vatuvei having to wait until his second season and his seventh outing for his first against South Sydney in 2005.
But in Vodafone Warriors folklore, the most famous first NRL try must belong to the late Sonny Fai.
He had the world at his feet when he stepped onto the NRL stage making his debut against Parramatta in the second round of the 2008 season.
Then four games into his tragically brief career, the 20-year-old had the exceptional Sonny Bill Williams not so much at his feet as left in his wake as he raced away to score his first try in the closing minutes of the Vodafone Warriors’ impressive 36-16 win over Canterbury-Bankstown at Mount Smart Stadium.
It’s etched in the memory. Nathan Fien goes to the line, expertly squeezes a grubber between the advancing Williams and Tim Winitana and Fai surges through on Fien’s left, the ball sitting up for him to race away to score. Williams chases back, diving to try to make an ankle tap but he’s left sprawled on the turf in Fai’s glorious moment.
Photosport’s Andrew Cornaga captured it perfectly. The established young superstar of the day on the ground able to watch only as the young man who should have taken over from him strode away.
A beautiful sporting moment which in the same breath will always be so achingly sad.
April 13, 2008
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 36 (Manu Vatuvei 2, Patrick Ah Van, Sonny Fai, Lance Hohaia, Ruben Wiki tries; Michael Witt 6 conversions).
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 16 (Heka Nanai, Luke Patten, Ben Roberts tries; Hazem El Masri 2 conversions).
Vodafone Warriors | Lance Hohaia; Patrick Ah Van, Brent Tate, Ryan Shortland, Manu Vatuvei; Michael Witt, Grant Rovelli; Sam Rapira, Nathan Fien, Ruben Wiki (c); Simon Mannering, Logan Swann; Micheal Luck (c). Interchange: Ian Henderson, Evarn Tuimavave, Epalahame Lauaki, Sonny Fai.
Canterbury-Bankstown | Luke Patten; Hazem El Masri, Tim Winitana, Willie Tonga, Heka Nanai; Ben Roberts, Daniel Holdsworth; Jarrad Hickey, Corey Hughes, Chris Armit; Sonny Bill Williams, Andrew Ryan; Lee Te Maari. Interchange: Justin Tsoulos, Danny Williams, Brad Morrin, Michael Sullivan.