A contingent of ex-Vodafone Warriors, New Zealanders and other former NRL players savoured grand final glory in three different counties over the weekend.
SUPER LEAGUE GRAND FINAL
Old Trafford, Manchester
On the biggest stage of the three grand finals – the Super League decider – former Vodafone Warriors prop Agnatius Paasi was used off the interchange as St Helens eked out a 12-10 victory over league leaders Les Catalans.
In a superb decider, St Helens was 6-10 behind for much of the second half before man of the match Kevin Naiqama’s second try and Lachlan Coote’s conversion provided a narrow two-point buffer which Saints protected for the last 12 minutes.
Paasi featured in a 28-minute cameo either side of halftime which produced 80 metres from nine carries and 19 tackles offset by four missed tackles.
As well as Paasi, Naiqama and Coote, St Helens had more NRL experience in second rower Sione Mata’utia.
The Dragons, denied winning the title for the first time, included former Vodafone Warriors James Maloney and Sam Tomkins. Their head coach is ex-Vodafone Warriors assistant coach Steve McNamara while they boasted former Kiwis and NRL players Dean Whare and Sam Kasiano along with Josh Drinkwater and Samisoni Langi.
SUPER LEAGUE MILLION POUND GAME
Stade Ernest-Wallon, Toulouse
There were New Zealand and NRL links across the park in one of the biggest game days of the rugby league year, Super League’s championship grand final or the Million Pound Game.
The showdown between the championship’s top two teams earns the victors a coveted place in the Super League competition.
In a regular season heavily impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic, Toulouse Olympique was undefeated while Featherstone Rovers had lost just once but Toulouse was too strong winning 34-12.
Former Vodafone Warrior Dominique Peyroux was in the Toulouse line-up along with the vastly-experienced Auckland-born one-Test Kiwi and former Wigan star Harrison Hansen (who has played more than 400 top level games). Others with NRL experience were ex-Penrith, Parramatta and Cronulla Sutherland utility Joseph Paulo and longtime France, Les Catalans and former Sydney Roosters forward Rémi Casty plus Junior Vaivai, Jonathon Ford and Mark Kheirallah.
Christchurch-born former Cronulla Sutherland and Canterbury Bankstown halfback Fa’amanu Brown was in the Featherstone Rovers side.
The venue was Stade Ernest-Wallon in Toulouse where the Kiwis beat France 62-12 in the 2009 Four Nations competition.
INTRUST SUPER CUP GRAND FINAL
Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe
Norths held off Wynnum-Manly 16-10 to win Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup grand final at Moreton Daily Stadium, the Vodafone Warriors’ home ground for the 2022 NRL season.
Coached by former Vodafone Warriors assistant coach Rohan Smith, the Devils boasted former Vodafone Warriors forward Leivaha Pulu as well as Michael Sio, who was named the Vodafone Warriors’ NYC player of the year in 2016.
They also boasted NRL experience in ex-Kiwi Danny Levi, Tyrone Roberts, Nene Macdonald and Jacob Gagan.
Former Vodafone Warrior Matiu Love-Henry was on the bench for the Seagulls with ex-Kiwi Zeb Taia in the second row.