Game day is here for the second instalment of the Vodafone Warriors' historic 2022 Homecoming Series at Mount Smart Stadium.
After the epic welcome home on July 3, it's time for the Vodafone Warriors to match up to NRL heavyweights the Melbourne Storm tonight (8.00pm kick-off).
Over the last six seasons the Storm have been in four grand finals and won two of them while they've been minor premiers four times.
The last time they collided with the Vodafone Warriors in Auckland was 1147 days ago on June 8, 2019.
The Vodafone Warriors led 10-0 inside the first 20 minutes and held a 10-8 edge at halftime before the visitors surged away to win 32-10.
Only two of the club’s 2022 squad – captain Tohu Harris and new 100-game prop Bunty Afoa – were in the home line-up that day.
In any given season, Melbourne boasts a slew of the competition’s best players and this year is no exception.
For a start the Storm have five current Kiwi internationals in Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, Jahrome Hughes, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Brandon Smith who were all impressive in New Zealand’s outstanding 26-6 win over Mate Ma’a Tonga at Mount Smart on June 25.
Then, of course, there’s the mercurial Cameron Munster, Harry Grant, Justin Olam and Felise Kaufusi.
The Storm have lost Smith to suspension and Ryan Papenhuyzen to injury but they'll be a formidable challenge nonetheless.
It's been that way for a long time. Indeed, the Storm have put together a run of 12 straight victories over the past seven years, the Vodafone Warriors’ last win dating back to July 12, 2015, when they prevailed 28-14 in an unforgettable encounter.
That the Storm should be one of the Vodafone Warriors’ opponents for their four-match Homecoming Series couldn’t be more appropriate.
They have a long and storied history dating back to Melbourne’s first year in the competition in 1998 when the Vodafone Warriors had a 16-12 success in the first encounter between the two sides at Mount Smart Stadium.
Tonight's 29 match will reinstate the Storm as the Vodafone Warriors’ most frequent opponents when they meet for the 49th time (they’re currently level on 48 with Penrith).
The July 3 26,009 Mount Smart sell-out helped the Vodafone Warriors to a 22-2 homecoming win over the Wests Tigers, the 300th victory in the club’s history. Elation abounded on the most-anticipated and most emotional day since the club’s debut on March 10, 1995.
Now for the second instalment, an assignment like few others for a Vodafone Warriors side revelling in being home at last.
Let's light up Mount Smart Stadium again. Fill the place and make the boys feel right at home, just like you did on July 3.