The addition of the Warriors to the then ARL in 1995 is still one of the best things that the game as ever done.
Over the course of their year history, the New Zealand Warriors have made two grand finals (2002, 2011) and had some great players.
Here is my top ten for the New Zealand Warriors.
10. Sean Hoppe
Hoppe was part of the Warriors inaugural side in 1995 and became a regular first team player. He would play 88 games for the club between the 1995 to 1999 seasons.
He was voted the competition’s best winger in 1995 and his 19 tries in the 1995 season remained a club record until 2003 (when it was surpassed by Francis Meli).
He is currently eighth on the club’s all-time try scoring list with 44. He would play 35 Tests for New Zealand.
9. Francis Meli
Coming into the club in the 1998 season Meli would play 110 games for the club scoring 60 tries. In 2003 he would break the all time record for most tries in a season with 23, scoring five of those tries against the Canterbury Bulldogs in a single finals match.
The record still stands to this day. As a result of his great 2003 season he was named the player of the year for 2003. He would represent Samoa in nine Tests and play 14 Tests for New Zealand.
8. Lance Hohaia
Debuting for the Warriors in 2002 he would go on to play 185 games for the club and be the only man to feature in both the club’s grand final appearances (2002, 2011). He is fifth on the all time tries lists with 57. He would represent New Zealand in 28 Tests.
7. Ben Matulino
A one man club for the Warriors Matulino joined the club in 2008 and has been loyal ever since, he has won the player of the year award twice for the 2012 and 2015 seasons. A powerhouse for the club upfront he has played 196 games for the club and scored 16 tries. He was apart of the 2011 grand final and has played 23 Tests for New Zealand.
6. Ivan Cleary
Cleary would be not just a great player for the club but would return as a coach. He played in the 2002 grand final for the club and coached the 2011 side to their grand final appearance.
He played 57 games for the club and coached 137. He is currently number four with 437 for most points at the club.
5. James Maloney
A point-scoring machine for the club, Maloney debuted for the club in 2010. He would play 77 games and score 547 points for the club, currently the fourth highest in the club’s history.
He was a huge part of their 2011 grand final run. He had only a short career at the Warriors but still one of the best.
4. Manu Vatuvei
An entertaining player on the wing, Vatauvei has had 227 (the third highest in the club history) games for the club since debuting in 2004. He has the club record for tries with currently 152 (more than double of his nearest competitor Stacey Jones at 77) and was the player of the year in 2010.
He was a part of the 2011 grand final where he scored a try and he represented his country 29 times.
3. Simon Mannering
Mannering came to the team in 2005 as a forward utility for the club. He is about to break Stacey Jones’ all time game record at 261. He has scored 58 tries for the club. A hard man up front he has been named player of the year for the club a record five times (2008, 2011, 2014, 2014, 2016).
In 2011 he captained the club into the grand final. In 2013 he replaced Benji Marshall as the New Zealand captain and he had 41 appearances for his country.
2. Shaun Johnson
Johnson would debut for the club in 2011 and be a part of the team grand final side. Over his 127 games for the club he has broken Stacey Jones’ all time points record, scored 56 tries and in 2013 scored an incredible 177 points – scoring 26 in one game versus Canberra alone. He is with no doubt the successor of the halfback leader that Stacey Jones was before him.
1. Stacey Jones
No doubt in my mind that Jones is number one and he was and important part of the club. As an original to the club Jones would go on to play 261 games, still a record, be awarded player of the year in 1997, be leading influence of their minor premiership-winning 2002 season and be the only man to score a try for the club in the 2002 grand final.
Do you agree with my list? Who is your favourite Warriors player? If there are any Kiwi brothers and sisters out there I would love to hear your opinion. Next up the Wests Tigers.