Five current or former Vodafone Warriors were among the NRL’s class of 2021 retiring and departing players acknowledged before last night’s grand final.
While Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is playing on – only in another code – he was recognised among a long list of players who have officially finished up in the NRL.
Not all were able to attend the grand final due to Covid-19 border restrictions but as well as Tiuivasa-Sheck, the NRL farewelled current prop Leeson Ah Mau as well as former Vodafone Warriors Blake Green, Russell Packer and Issac Luke.
While those five have either finished in the NRL or retired completely, another ex-Vodafone Warrior ending his top-flight playing days is standoff James Maloney. He makes his last first grade appearance when Les Catalans face St Helens in this weekend’s Super League grand final at Old Trafford. However, he will play on at local club level in France for FC Lézignan in the Elite One Championship.
Tuivasa-Sheck ended his NRL career with 195 appearances – 111 of them for the Vodafone Warriors – when he returned home late in the 2021 season to start his rugby union career.
Ah Mau, who boasts a total of 223 NRL games, also finished the season early to be reunited with his family in Auckland. He wasn’t offered a new contract and, while he recently said he wasn’t planning to retire, he hasn’t been signed by another NRL club.
Green and Packer both called time on their playing careers earlier in the season while Luke recently announced his retirement from the NRL (although he didn’t appear in the competition this year). He has made nine appearances for Intrust Super Cup grand finalists the Wynnum-Manly Seagulls this season and is keen to keep playing in Taranaki.
Green made just six appearances for Newcastle this year before announcing his retirement while Packer play only once for the Wests Tigers.
VODAFONE WARRIORS | DEPARTING CLASS OF 2021
LEESON AH MAU (#147) | NRL clubs: Vodafone Warriors, North Queensland, St George Illawarra. NRL career games: 223 (2009-2021); Vodafone Warriors: 44 (2019-2021).
BLAKE GREEN (#222) | NRL clubs: Parramatta, Cronulla Sutherland, Canterbury Bankstown, Melbourne, Manly Warringah, Vodafone Warriors, Newcastle. Super League clubs: Hull Kingston Rovers, Wigan. NRL career games: 181 (2007-2021); Vodafone Warriors 55 (2018-2020). Super League career games: 88 (2011-2014).
ISSAC LUKE (#206) | NRL clubs: South Sydney, Vodafone Warriors, St George Illawarra, Brisbane. NRL career games: 286 (2007-2020); Vodafone Warriors: 83 (2016-2019).
JAMES MALONEY (#156) | NRL clubs: Melbourne, Vodafone Warriors, Sydney Roosters, Cronulla Sutherland, Penrith. Super League clubs: Les Catalans. NRL career games: 247 (2009-2019); Vodafone Warriors: 75 (2010-2012). Super League career games: 31 (2020-2021).
RUSSELL PACKER (#141) | NRL clubs: Vodafone Warriors, St George Illawarra, Wests Tigers. NRL career games: 184 (2008-2021); Vodafone Warriors: 110 (2008-2013).
ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (#203) | NRL clubs: Sydney Roosters, Vodafone Warriors. NRL career games: 195 (2012-2021); Vodafone Warriors: 111 (2016-2021).
Retired Kiwi Ferns legend Honey Hireme-Smiler was also acknowledged along with former Kiwis Iosia Soliola, Jordan Kahu, Alex Glenn and Sonny Bill Williams.
Others honoured were Boyd Cordner (Sydney Roosters), Jake Friend (Sydney Roosters), Brett Morris (Sydney Roosters), Josh Morris (Sydney Roosters), Cameron Smith (Melbourne Storm), Michael Morgan (North Queensland Cowboys), Anthony Don (Gold Coast Titans), Will Hopoate (Canterbury Bulldogs), Justin O'Neill (North Queensland Cowboys), Josh Dugan (Cronulla Sharks), Blake Ferguson (Parramatta Eels), Trent Merrin (St George Illawarra Dragons) and Dale Copley (Sydney Roosters).