The ups and downs of the New Zealand Warriors

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian
www.sunlive.co.nz

Thousands of people around the country are getting ready for a roller coaster ride.

No, they're not headed for Rainbows End, but are getting ready for the ups and downs of following the New Zealand Warriors, again.

Since the (then) Auckland Warriors made their NRL entrance in 1995, the myriad of Warriors fans have ridden the waves of the highs and lows of "OUR" team, year after year. 

Make no mistake this is the toughest rugby league competition in the world.

It was never going to be easy, from the day that the Warriors squared off with the Brisbane Broncos at Ericsson Stadium in round one on March 10, 1995.

Nearly 30,000 fledgling Warriors funds turned up to watch the home team put on a defiant performance, going down 25-22.

However, a disastrous interchange call by team management against Western Suburbs in round three, saw them deducted two competition points.

The mistake ultimately cost them a place in the playoffs.

While they missed the post-section games, there was plenty of optimism in the camp in finishing 10th in the 20 team competition, in their first season. 

The first jersey is a long way from the Warriors strips of today.

It seems that we now have a jersey for every occasion - or is it just a marketing ploy to sell more merchandise.

The first team was known as the DB Bitter Auckland Warriors and wore a uniform of green, red and white that reflected the green and red of the Dominion Breweries beer product.

It's interesting to look back at the players in the inaugural Warriors.

Current coach Stephen Kearney, Dean Bell, local hero Hitro Okesene, Tea Ropati and Sean Hoppe were players that went on to star in the game.

On April 23, 1995, Stacey Jones made his Warriors entrance with the “little general” going on to become a rugby league legend.

However, the biggest signing in the first team was All Black John Kirwan.

The All Black legendary winger, was probably past his best when he put his signature on a Warriors contract at the start of 1995.

For the record he made 35 appearances in the clubs first two years in the NRL, scoring 13 tries, without setting the rugby league world on fire.

Along with the names that remain with us today, are players that have been long forgotten and made little impact in the clubs first year.

Inaugural players such as Jason Mackie, Mike Dorren, Gavin Hill and Dennis Betts disappeared from the Warriors with little fanfare.

What does 2017 hold for the New Zealand Warriors. The new year has started off, with the usual talking up the season from team management.

A new coach and new captain have supposedly swept away the problems of the last few years.

What concerns this dyed in the wool Warriors fan, is that we don't see more of the blowout losses we have witnessed in the last few season.

At their best "OUR" team is brilliant on attack and defence and can sweep away any side in the NRL title race.

Let's hope that the flair and attacking game become more consistent this season, which could lead the Warriors to go deep into the playoffs in September.

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