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Two games into his Vodafone Warriors career new centre Jesse Arthars is as pumped as any of his teammates about one particular date – July 3.

Suddenly that mid-winter Sunday has become a beacon amid the morass these Covid-blighted times have become over the last two years.

It now represents a rebirth, a starting over and a re-entry into more normal times for Vodafone Warriors fans and rugby league lovers at large.

For it’s the day the Vodafone Warriors will bring the game back to New Zealand when they play at Mount Smart Stadium for the first time since August 30, 2019.

Close to threequarters of the club’s 2022 NRL squad have never played for the club at Mount Smart, not least hooker Wayde Egan and second rowers Eliesa Katoa and Jack Murchie who have represented New Zealand's NRL club only on Australian soil (Egan 41 matches, Katoa 34 and Murchie 23).

The 23-year-old Auckland-born Arthars, an East Coast Bays Barracudas junior, is in line for his third appearance in the club’s colours this Saturday and for the second time in three games it will be against a team he has previously played for; first it was Gold Coast, now Brisbane, which has loaned him to the Vodafone Warriors this season.

To play for the Vodafone Warriors was always a childhood dream for him but now, with big changes made to New Zealand’s Covid restrictions, an even bigger dream is in the pipeline – playing at Mount Smart against Wests Tigers on July 3.

It might be a fair way off yet but, like the rest of his teammates, Arthars thrills to the thought of it.

“I moved over (to Australia with my family) from Auckland at the end of 2010, start of 2011, so I’ve been here for a while now,” he says.

“But I’ve always supported the Kiwis, the All Blacks and stuff like that. I used to get heaps of stick about it from my cousins when we first moved over saying: ‘You’re going to turn into an Australian now.’

“But I’ve always stuck solid. I’m a Kiwi, mate, so I’m not going to back another country.

“It’ll be wicked (playing at Mount Smart). That’s definitely one of the games on the calendar that I’d love to be a part of.

“I can only imagine how many people will be asking me for tickets. I’d love to have as many of my family and friends as possible there but that’s still quite a while away so I’ve got to keep working hard to make sure I stay in the team.”

That resumes this Saturday against his contracted club Brisbane, the Broncos coming to the Vodafone Warriors’ 2022 home at Moreton Daily Stadium in Redcliffe after a bad night out in a 12-38 loss to North Queensland last Sunday.

This effectively becomes another derby against the temporary Brisbane-based Vodafone Warriors.

In his first two appearances for the Vodafone Warriors, Arthars has settled in quickly despite coming into a new team, even more so on a right edge which underwent such a huge transformation after Shaun Johnson (pectoral), Viliami Vailea (knee) and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (broken thumb) were all side-lined following the first-round loss to St George Illawarra.

For Arthars, that meant adapting to two different halfbacks in two weeks, first former Titans teammate Ash Taylor and then Kodi Nikorima.

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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