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It was 10 years ago: Looking back at grand final line-up

Marking the 10th anniversary of the Vodafone Warriors' 2011 grand final appearance, here's a look at the players who lined up at ANZ Stadium and where they are now.

1 KEVIN LOCKE (#152) | Was playing his 53rd career game in the 2011 grand final but would play only 36 more first-grade matches before leaving the NRL in 2014 to play in the Super League. Had a troubled time in England, a short stint with Salford followed by an even shorter one with Wakefield. Returned to Australia in 2016 to try rugby union but then returned to rugby league. Had an unsuccessful trial with Manly, played once for Sunshine Coast in the Queensland Cup, returned home to play for Northcote and Point Chevalier in the local Fox Memorial and made a handful of appearances for Souths Logan in the Queensland Cup this year.

2 BILL TUPOU (#160) | Was in his second NRL season when he played in the 2011 grand final. Finished with 62 appearances and 19 tries for Vodafone Warriors from 2010-2013 followed by 14 games for Canberra from 2013-2015 before signing with Wakefield in English Super League. Has had seven seasons with the Wildcats making more than 120 appearances so far. He was named Wakefield’s man of steel in 2018.

3 LEWIS BROWN (#151) | With Jerome Ropati injured for most of 2011, Brown spent much of season in the centres scoring the match winner in the preliminary final win over Melbourne. After 84 appearances for Vodafone Warriors, he played 66 games for Penrith from 2013-2015 followed by 48 for Manly Warringah from 2016-2018 before finishing his career with a total of 198 NRL games. After retiring early in 2019 he launched Earl’s Collection, a street clothing label.

4 KRISNAN INU (#166) | Joined Vodafone Warriors in 2011 after 78 appearances for Parramatta. Time with club ended after only 21 games when he was released to join Canterbury-Bankstown in 2012 and again played in the grand final that year. Released by Bulldogs midway through 2014 after 40 games, switching to rugby union with Stade Français in Paris. Returned to rugby league with Les Catalans from 2015-2017, Widnes Vikings 2018-2019 and Salford Red Devils 2019-2021.

5 MANU VATUVEI (#115) | Was midway through his time with Vodafone Warriors when he played in 2011 grand final, eventually ending his one-club NRL career with 226 appearances and a club record 152 tries, ranking him among competition’s leading all-time try scorers. Became first and only player to score 10 or more tries in 10 consecutive NRL seasons. Left the club in 2017 to join Salford in Super League. Scored five tries in eight games but Achilles injury ended career. Began professional boxing career but forced to retire after a cyst was discovered on his brain in 2019.

6 JAMES MALONEY (#156) | Joined Vodafone Warriors in 2010, making 85 appearances for club (547 points) before signing with Sydney Roosters, helping them to grand final success in 2013. After 79 games with Roosters, had more grand final success with Cronulla Sutherland in 2016, ending his two seasons with the Sharks with 45 games followed by 44 with Penrith. Retired from NRL in 2019 after 247 games to join Les Catalans in Super League. Will end top grade career next weekend after guiding Les Catalans into Super League grand final for the first time. Signed to play for FC Lezignan in French domestic competition.

7 SHAUN JOHNSON (#168) | On the 10th anniversary of Vodafone Warriors’ 2011 grand final, the then-rookie halfback is now preparing for his second career with his original club. The 2011 grand final was only his 16th NRL match in a career spanning eight seasons and 162 appearances (club record 917 points including 63 tries) before signing a three-year deal with Cronulla Sutherland from 2019. Injury restricted him to 44 games for Sharks (263 points). Signed two-year deal in June to return home and now has a chance of joining Vodafone Warriors’ 200-game club.

15 RUSSELL PACKER (#141) | He was still only 21 but the 2011 grand final was already the 77th appearance of his career en route to 110 games for the club in six seasons before he signed for Newcastle for four years from 2014. That contract was terminated before he was jailed on an assault charge. Returned to the NRL with St George Illawarra in 2015 and 2016 (41 appearances) before joining Wests Tigers. Retired this year with career total of 184 games. Completed a Master of Business Administration (executive) at the University of NSW's Australian Graduate School of Management this year. Is returning to live in New Zealand with his family.

14 LANCE HOHAIA (#99) | The 2011 grand final was his 185th and final game for the Vodafone Warriors as well as his last in the NRL before linking with St Helens in the Super League. Made more than 80 appearances for Saints before retiring early in 2015 due to ongoing head injury issues after being knocked unconscious by Wigan’s Ben Flower in the 2014 Super League grand final. Lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the United States with his wife and their two sons. Head coach of Aquinas College men’s rugby union team and also involved in rugby league.

10 JACOB LILLYMAN (#146) | Joined the Vodafone Warriors in 2009 after 62 appearances for the Cowboys. Missed just two games in 2011 underlining the durability that would see him play 188 times during his nine seasons with the club. Along with Russell Packer, Sam Rapira and Ben Matulino provided the team with a quality front row rotation. Was set to join elite list of 10-season Vodafone Warriors in 2018 but wasn’t offered a new contract. Instead finished career with Newcastle in 2019 retiring with a total of 265 appearances before returning to live in Auckland with his family where he is now a builder.

17 ELIJAH TAYLOR (#167) | Grand final climaxed a memorable rookie season after injury had denied him an expected debut in 2010. Seemed destined to have a long career with the Vodafone Warriors but time with the club finished at the end of the 2013 season after a total of 67 games. Signed by Penrith but departed early in 2016 when he joined Wests Tigers where he stayed until 2020 before being released. Finished NRL career with 186 appearances to link with Salford in Super League in 2021. He revealed late last year that his former manager had defrauded him of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

12 SIMON MANNERING (#125) captain | After making debut in 2005, became club’s youngest captain at 23 in 2010. Played all 28 games in the 2011 season culminating in grand final. Went on to become the first and only player to appear in 300 NRL games for the Vodafone Warriors and was also the first to captain the club in 100 games. Retired as a one-club player in 2018 with 301 first-grade appearances having been named player of the year a record five times in 2008, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2016. Had the club’s player of the year award named after him on his retirement. Has returned home to live in Mapua near Nelson where he is a builder.

13 MICHAEL LUCK (#126) | Came to Vodafone Warriors in 2006 after 76 appearances for North Queensland. Was the team’s most experienced player in 2011 grand final, playing his 220th game. A renowned tackling machine, he made what was then an NRL record 74 tackles against Melbourne in 2009, the same season he was named the club’s player of the year. Injury restricted him to just six matches in 2012 when he retired after his 150th game for the club and his 226th in total. He settled back in Townsville and is now North Queensland’s head of football.


8 SAM RAPIRA (#131) | Started first-grade career in 2006. Was playing his 123rd game in the 2011 grand final. Originally selected to start against Manly but was ultimately used off the bench. Went on to have 10 seasons with the Vodafone Warriors, leaving the NRL at the end of the 2015 season after 173 appearances. He moved to the Super League, played more than 50 games for the Huddersfield Giants in 2016 and 2017 and then had a stint with Toulouse Olympique in the French domestic competition in 2018 before retiring. He is now a teacher, living at Manaia near Coromandel with his wife and their family.

9 AARON HEREMAIA (#153) | The 2011 grand final was his 60th and last NRL appearance after making a late start to his career as a 26-year-old in 2009. Had previously played for Western Suburbs Magpies and North Sydney Bears in New South Wales premier league before stint with the Leigh Centurions in England. Returned home in 2006 to play local club football and work as a chef in Thames. Broke into the Auckland Vulcans in the New South Wales Cup, caught the Vodafone Warriors’ attention and earned a trial contract before being signed permanently. Returned to England to play for Hull FC (71 games) from 2012-2014 and then more than 100 matches for the Widnes Vikings from 2015-2018 before retiring. Now living in Queensland with wife and their three sons.

11 FELETI MATEO (#164) | Appeared in all 28 games in 2011 after previously playing for Parramatta and the London Broncos. Selected to start but used off the bench in the grand final, he went on to play 95 times in his four seasons with the Vodafone Warriors before he finished his NRL career with two seasons at Manly Warringah. After a total of 205 NRL games, he had a brief stint with Salford in the Super League. Settled back in Sydney with his wife and their three daughters, these days working as a sales representative.  

16 BEN MATULINO (#142) | Had made NRL debut as a 20-year-old in 2008 and quickly became a first-choice selection appearing in all 28 matches in 2011. He went on to be named the club’s player of the year twice (2012 and 2015) and joined the elite list of players who represented the Vodafone Warriors for 10 seasons. One of only four to appear in 200 games for the club, he finished up with 212 appearances before joining Wests Tigers in 2018. A knee injury forced his premature retirement on medical grounds in 2019 after a total of 248 games. He returned to New Zealand, settling in Papamoa with his wife and family where he owns a lawn mowing business.

18th man:

20 STEVE RAPIRA (#169) | Young brother of Sam, he made his NRL debut with the North Queensland Cowboys after being in the Vodafone Warriors’ first under-10 side in 2008. Played 16 times for the Cowboys in 2009 and 2010 before coming home in 2011. Earned a spot as the 18th man for the grand final. Injury limited him to just 14 NRL appearances for the Vodafone Warriors across 2011, 2012 and 2013. He joined Salford on a two-year deal in the Super League in 2014 but after 20 outings that season was given a release on compassionate grounds to return to New Zealand.

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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