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Draw-22: Singling out Vodafone Warriors' super six matches

In a 2022 season throwing up any number of key encounters six stand out for all sorts of reasons.

Three are against modern-day glamour clubs the Sydney Roosters, Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm who have claimed each of the last five premierships between them.

Another is against traditional rivals the Brisbane Broncos in what promises to be a local derby of a different kind while the home encounter with beaten 2021 grand finalist South Sydney has special allure as a Magic Round match-up.

And then there's Manly which lit up after a rough start to 2021 to put together a charge which fell just one week short of the grand final.

For many in the area, the Vodafone Warriors will be anointed the Redcliffe Warriors as they make the region their home in 2022 – and this will be as big as it gets locally.

The adopted home team’s scheduled first game at their new base against the once all-powerful Brisbane Broncos has a feeling of a derby with a difference about it.

The Broncos had another challenging year in 2021, finishing 14th after being handed the wooden spoon for the first time in their history in 2020.

They’ve recruited accomplished South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds along with Queensland State of Origin back rower Kurt Capewell, Ryan James and Brenko Lee and they’ll be buoyed by having a fit-again Kotoni Staggs. Against that they’ve lost Xavier Coates and Anthony Milford plus the retired Alex Glenn.

Brisbane had a 24-22 win in the only clash between the two sides this year.

Any encounter against the Roosters in any season always ranks up the scale. They always bring something special not least through the quality of their line-up.

This one is set to pit two of the young guns against each other, the two top rookies in 2021 – Vodafone Warriors fullback Reece Walsh and Roosters standoff Sam Walker. They both played well above their level of experience this year and promise to grow further in 2022.

As well as Walker the Roosters will still have the likes of James Tedesco, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Siosiua Taukeiaho, Joey Manu, Angus Crichton and more but they’ve lost a lot of experience with Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend, Brett Morris and Josh Morris retired and Isaac Liu and Matt Ikuvalu moving on.

This is a third straight visit to the SCG for the Vodafone Warriors. The previous two didn’t go well with the Roosters winning 42-6 and 32-12.

Magic Round returns in 2022 with the Vodafone Warriors pitted against the beaten grand finalists at Suncorp Stadium.

The Rabbitohs have dominated the Vodafone Warriors since 2012 winning 11 of the last 12 matches between the two sides, the only loss in the opening round of the 2018 season.

They were in scorching form this year winning 60-22 at Sunshine Coast Stadium and they also won big 40-12 in 2020.

South Sydney has undergone major change for 2022, though. The ultra-reliable Adam Reynolds has gone along with Jaydn Su'A, Dane Gagai and the retired Benji Marshall. Then again they still have quality in Cody Walker, Latrell Mitchell, Damien Cook, Cameron Murray, Campbell Graham and Alex Johnston while they've acquired Anthony Milford and former Vodafone Warrior Siliva Havili.

Facing Tom Trbojevic alone makes any contest with Manly a mouth-watering prospect – although not necessarily so for opponents.

Well, as it happens he's not likely to be the factor in the Vodafone Warriors' only match against the Sea Eagles next season; that's because this contest is scheduled for the week leading into State of Origin I which will rule the turbo man out, and supposedly Daly Cherry-Evans and Jake Trbojevic as well.

Trbojevic was beyond electric in the Sea Eagles' 38-32 win over a fast-finishing Vodafone Warriors side in round nine this year so, without him plus brother Jake and DCE, this match is set to take on a vastly different complexion. And that means it's set to be a hugely significant match in the context of the Vodafone Warriors' campaign.

This one can’t come soon enough for Vodafone Warriors members, fans, family and staff. For everyone really.

Provided all is well with Covid and the borders, this game means everything for an entire nation and for rugby league above all.

The Vodafone Warriors would have gone 1023 days without a game at Mount Smart Stadium when this one comes around and that’s too long for anyone. Of the side that lined up against South Sydney in the last match there on August 30, 2019, only Adam Pompey, Kodi Nikorima, Jazz Tevaga and Chanel Harris-Tavita remain (along with Bunty Afoa who missed that game).

The Panthers are an automatic drawcard carrying the mantle of defending champions throughout 2022. They’ll be even more so for this landmark game.

They’ve won each of the last four contests against the Vodafone Warriors and will bring threats all over the park as well as from the coaching box in the shape of club favourite Ivan Cleary.

If having the defending premiers in Auckland to effectively reopen Mount Smart Stadium is a monster clash then so is this one.

The Storm failed to make the grand final this year but still command greater respect than any side in the competition having won two of the last five grand finals and four of the last six minor premierships.

They’ve had the hex on the Vodafone Warriors winning the last 11 contests since 2015.

Melbourne has lost a lot of cattle going into 2022 with Josh Addo-Carr, Dale Finucane, Nicho Hynes, new Vodafone Warrior Aaron Pene, Brenko Lee and Max King all off the books. That’s partly offset by the arrival of the impressive Xavier Coates.

And, of course, the Storm still have Brandon Smith, Jahrome Hughes, Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Cameron Munster, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Felise Kaufusi, Reimis Smith, Justin Olam, Harry Grant and Christian Welch. In other words, talent galore.


But how special will it be to have them back at Mount Smart?

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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