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Tevaga and Afoa taking aim at 100-game mark

They were alongside each other when the Stacey Jones-coached Vodafone Junior Warriors won the 2014 NYC grand final and next season Jazz Tevaga and Bunty Afoa will be in line to become the latest additions to the list of players to appear in 100 NRL games for the club.

Tevaga is nine games short, Afoa 16 as they seek to join a list which stands at 26 now.

Their careers have run almost parallel ever since they came into the club’s development system, if by rather different routes.

Afoa, nine months younger than his constant teammate, was earmarked early on as he excelled for ever-productive St Paul’s College on Auckland’s college rugby league scene; Tevaga, on the other hand, was picked up almost out of blue after he impressed at an under-20 open trial staged by the Vodafone Warriors to find additional talent for their 2014 NYC squad.

It mattered not how they arrived at the club. All that counted was that both were integral elements in a side that surged from eighth spot after the regular season to edge a highly-fancied Brisbane Broncos side 34-32 in an epic grand final.

Among their teammates that day were Ken Maumalo, Nathaniel Roache, Solomone Kata, Brad Abbey, Mason Lino, Sam Lisone, James Bell and Toafofoa Sipley, who have all gone on to play in the NRL; Lisone was the first to 100 games last year followed by Maumalo early this season.

Opposing them in that grand final was current Vodafone Warriors teammate Kodi Nikorima plus train and trial halfback Ash Taylor, both of whom have gone on to top 100 appearances. Also in the side were fellow 100 gamers Jai Arrow and Joe Ofahengaue.

Tevaga and Afoa both made their NRL debuts in 2016, Tevaga in round three against Melbourne, Afoa in round 17 against Gold Coast.

Since then they’ve yo-yoed. At the end of their rookie seasons Tevaga had played 11 NRL games, Afoa four before Afoa went 21-15 ahead after the 2017 campaign.

They both featured prominently in the Vodafone Warriors’ charge to the 2018 finals, Afoa’s 23 appearances taking him to 44 games and Tevaga being used 20 times to hit 35.

As established frontline choices, they both brought up their 50th appearances in 2019 with Afoa finishing the year on 64 games and Tevaga 57.

Denied any football after an ACL injury early in 2020, Afoa stayed locked on 64 while Tevaga moved to 69 with 12 outings in an injury-interrupted campaign. By the end of the 2021 season Tevaga had moved to 91 appearances and Afoa 84.

Of the 26 players in the 100 club, 21 have come through the Vodafone Warriors' development system.

100 GAMES

 
301 *Simon Mannering (#125)
261 *Stacey Jones (#24)
226 *Manu Vatuvei (#115)
212 *Ben Matulino (#142)
195 *Logan Swann (#42)
188 Jacob Lillyman (#146)
185 *Lance Hohaia (#99)
173 *Sam Rapira (#131)
170  *Awen Guttenbeil (#33)
162 *Shaun Johnson (#168)
159 *Wairangi Koopu (#64)
150 Micheal Luck (#126)
145 *Jerome Ropati (#108)
132 *Jerry Seuseu (#50)
129 *Clinton Toopi (#66)
115 *Ali Lauitiiti (#55)
115 *Joe Vagana (#18)
111 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (#203)
110 *Francis Meli (#65)
110 *Russell Packer (#141)
108 *David Fusitu'a (#189)
106 *Ken Maumalo (#201)
105 Nathan Fien (#124)
105 *Evarn Tuimavave (#102)
103 Brent Webb (#97)
101 *Monty Betham (#61)

* Players who have come through development system.

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