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Opinion

The best New Zealand Warriors players who never played representative football

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Roar Guru
18th June, 2022
10

As for previous articles in this series, I will attempt to put together a quality team for each NRL club made up solely of players since 1980 who never went beyond club level. The criteria for selection is:

– No representing at senior level: internationals, State of Origin, Prime Ministers XIII, City vs. Country or All Stars.
– Current players are excluded.
– Players are only eligible for the club they played the most first grade games for.

This was a really tough team. Most half-decent players are picked up by New Zealand or by a Pacific Island at some point in their careers, with one very significant exception. In fact, with a cutoff of 20 first grade games, I only found 16 players to choose from.

Fullback: Cliff Beverley (44 matches) – 1999-2001. 15 wins 28 losses. 8 tries

With a name that sounds like a small Bible Belt town mayor, Beverley represented the Warriors for three seasons, either from the bench or as a fullback or five-eighth. Beverley played with the Glenora Bears and represented Auckland before debuting in the NRL.

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Mainly used as a fill-in, his finest run was probably in 2001 when he started the season in his preferred five-eighth position for the first seven rounds, before losing out to Motu Tony as the club made the finals for the first time.

After leaving Auckland, Beverley played in the English competition for Barrow and then for Salford, where his 38-try season in 2002 helped the Red Devils achieve promotion to the Super League. He then returned to New Zealand and turned out for the Waitakere Rangers.

In retirement, Beverley worked with disability rugby league in Auckland.

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Wing

Lee Oudenryn (61) – 1997-2000. 26 wins 34 losses. 23 tries 1 goal

Speedster Lee Oudenryn is thought of as a Parramatta player, but he actually played 11 more matches for the Warriors (as well as a handful for the Gold Coast and North Queensland).

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Oudenryn’s main claim to fame was beating Martin “Chariots” Offiah in a 100-metre race at Parramatta Stadium in 1992, but he spent a decade at NRL level and played over 130 first grade games.

Oudenryn debuted for Auckland from the bench late in 1997 and scored four tries in his first five matches. This was enough for him to be a first-choice wing for the club for the next three years, although he never again scored at anything like that rate.

After retiring, Oudenryn became a police officer in New Zealand and then back in NSW, where he is probably rarely outrun.

John Kirwan (35) – 1995-1996. 21 wins 14 losses. 13 tries

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John Kirwan was an All Black legend, a member of the New Zealand Rugby Union Hall of Fame and was knighted in 2012. At the tail end of his career, Kirwan signed with the Warriors for two seasons from their entry into the competition in 1995, providing the fledgling club with some much-needed local star power.

Kirwan was a reasonable success, with the club winning 11 of the first 14 games he played in 1995, as Auckland just missed the finals on for and against. As he became more familiar with the code, the veteran went on a bit of a run the following year, scoring tries in six consecutive games and bagging two doubles to top the club’s try-scoring list.

In retirement, Kirwan returned to rugby union for a long coaching career around the world.

Centres

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Ngani Laumape (30) – 2013-2014. 13 wins 17 losses. 11 tries

Laumape had a short two-season stint with the Warriors at the beginning of his professional career. He scored plenty of tries and made the New Zealand train-on squad in 2014 but did not make the final cut. An ACL injury in 2015 ruined his season.

Laumape was from a rugby union background and switched to play for the Wellington Hurricanes in the Super Rugby competition. He has since represented the All Blacks 15 times and in 2021 left the Hurricanes to play in France.

Shane Endacott (42) – 1997-1999. 14 wins 28 losses. 3 tries

After commencing his career for Hull FC in the English 2nd Division, Endacott joined the Warriors in 1996, playing reserve grade for his dad Frank Endacott and representing the New Zealand Residents side.

Primarily a five-eighth, Endacott found himself filling in at centre, and as a bench utility for the next three seasons. It didn’t hurt that after he joined the club, they fired coach John Monie and installed his father as head coach.

Endacott retired at just 28 to move into business and has also coached local teams in Christchurch.

Five-eighth: Blake Green (55) – 2018-2020. 26 wins 28 losses. 4 tries 1 FG. 1 final 1 loss

Blake Green was the definition of a rugby league journeyman. He played 181 NRL games for a whopping seven clubs (plus two in England), with his three seasons at the Warriors from 2018 just getting him into this side ahead of Melbourne.

If any club was looking for a safe pair of hands, they turned to Green. He is one of only three players to turn out for seven different NRL clubs.

The easiest way to go here is to simply list them:

2007 Parramatta
2008-2009 Cronulla, including a preliminary final.
2010 Canterbury,
2011-2012 Hull Kingston Rovers, including a final,
2013-2014 Wigan. This is where Green’s reputation really soared, playing five-eighth as the Wigan Warriors took out the Challenge Cup and Premiership double in 2013. Green won player of the match in the premiership grand final. He also played in a losing grand final in 2014.
2015-2016 Melbourne, including their 2016 grand final loss and a preliminary final exit the previous year.
2017 Manly, played a final.
2018-2020 Warriors, including a final in 2018.
2020-2021 Newcastle.
2021 inaugural coach of the Newcastle NRLW side to prepare their entry to the competition.
2022 Newcastle NRL Assistant coach.

What a resume.

Blake Green

Blake Green on the Warriors. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Halfback: Michael Witt (43) – 2007-2008. 24 wins 18 losses. 12 tries 121 goals. 5 finals 2 wins

Michael Witt was a decent half and wonderful goal kicker who played nearly 200 first grade matches across four NRL clubs and two English Super League sides.

After two years at each of Parramatta (where he was the club’s rookie of the year) and Manly, Witt joined the Warriors in 2007 and had an immediate impact, scoring nearly 300 points across two seasons as the Warriors played finals both years.

In 2007, Witt broke the record of Darryl Halligan for the most accurate goal kicking season, 95 goals from 67 attempts for a 92.5 per cent success rate. He also scored the decisive try in the club’s 2008 semi-final win against Melbourne, the first time a team finishing eighth had defeated a minor premier.

Witt left the Warriors for a brief stint in rugby union in New Zealand, then moved to England and spent two seasons each at the Celtic Crusaders and London Broncos, with limited team success. He returned to Australia in 2014 with St George Illawarra but only played a few matches.

Witt was a bit of a hot head for a small player, and was suspended four times during his NRL career.

Lock: Michael Luck (150) – 2006-2012. 73 wins 74 losses. 7 tries. 10 finals 4 wins

Somehow Michael Luck played 226 career first grade games without a rep jumper. After five seasons and 76 games with the North Queensland Cowboys, Luck spent another seven seasons with the Warriors, tackling anything that moved, including 74 in a single game against Melbourne in 2009.

Luck’s time at the Warriors coincided with possibly their most successful period, making four finals series, including going all the way to the 2011 grand final, before being beaten by Manly.

He was locking the scrum for all those finals, playing over 20 games in each season until his last in 2012. He was name the club’s player of the year in 2009.

Luck is now the general manager of football back at the North Queensland Cowboys.

Note: Luck did tour PNG with the Prime Minister’s XIII in 2010, but it appears he was 18th man.

Second row

Lachlan Burr (37) – 2019-2020. 15 wins 21 losses. 1 try

Lachlan Burr played over 75 NRL matches for four clubs before being forced to retired earlier this year due to injury.

Burr made one appearance for Canterbury in 2013, before spending two seasons with the Gold Coast from 2015. In 2016, Burr spent most of the season in the Queensland Cup, where he won a premiership with the Burleigh Bears.

In 2017, Burr left the NRL and played a season with Leigh in the English Super League. After Leigh lost the ‘Million Pound Game’ and were relegated from the top division, Burr returned to Australia and joined the Canterbury Bulldogs.

He didn’t make the first grade squad but won a premiership in the NSW Cup and won the state championship over Redcliffe.

Burr then joined the Warriors in 2019 and enjoyed his most successful season, making 23 appearances. He backed this up with 14 appearances in 2020, before joining the Cowboys.

Sebastine Ikahihifo (39) – 2012-2015. 15 wins 24 losses. 1 try

Sebastine Ikahihifo started his career with four years for the Warriors, primarily as a bench forward. His career really blossomed after he left to join Huddersfield in the English Super League. Ikahihifo was the club’s player of the year in 2017 and made the Super League ‘Dream Team’ that year.

After a couple of years at Salford, where he played in the club’s 2020 Challenge Cup final loss to Leeds, Ikahihifo rejoined Huddersfield for 2022 and has so far racked up over 100 games in that competition.

Props

Jesse Royal (36) – 2009-2010. 17 wins 18 losses. 2 tries

Jesse royal worked as a chef in the New Zealand Army and captained a New Zealand Residents team on a tour of England.

After some time in the lower grades with Penrith, Royal spent a couple of years in first grade with the Newcastle Knights. After that he figured his career was over and was working in the mines when contacted by the Warriors.

He joined the Warriors in 2009 (taking a pay cut from mining work) and had a reasonable impact as a front rower and bench player.

Royal’s win percentage is better than many in this team. He also managed to score a try the first time he touched the football for the club.

Royal then returned to Newcastle to work the mines and play in the local competition for Kurri Kurri, where he has represented Newcastle in the NSW Country Championship.

Charlie Gubb (40) – 2013-2017. 17 wins 23 losses. 1 try

Charlie Gubb first came to notice in 2010 where he was a part of the Warriors’ premiership-winning under-20s team. He then won a premiership in the Queensland Cup with Wynnum Manly in 2012 and represented Queensland Residents before returning to the Warriors.

He spent five seasons with the Warriors from his first grade debut in 2013. He was only used sporadically in his first three seasons but had a successful 2016 campaign, where he appeared 14 times for eight wins and scored his only NRL try. The club only won two from their eight other matches in the season to miss the finals.

Gubb left New Zealand for Canberra in 2018 but only played five matches before then joining Widnes in England. He only appeared for them four times as the club got relegated, before retiring at just 28 to become a teacher.

Hooker: Karl Lawton (33) – 2018-2020. 16 wins 17 losses. 6 tries

Karl Lawton has played 70 NRL games across three clubs. He first joined the Gold Coast as a local junior in 2016-2017, appearing 13 times, before moving to the Warriors for three years.

His best year was 2020, where he enjoyed a lengthy stint as the club’s starting hooker, before switching to Manly in 2021 where he was a regular from Round 11 and played in the club’s finals campaign.

He has been signed by the Sea Eagles until the end of 2024.

Bench

Michael Crockett (20) – 2007-2008. 9 wins 10 losses. 11 tries

Michael Crockett was a prolific try scorer, crossing 18 times in his short 28-game career, firstly for Wests and then for the Warriors in 2007 and 2008. He played in the Warriors’ 2007 finals campaign, including scoring a try in their semi-final loss to North Queensland. Crockett scored a hat trick in his second last game for the club.

After being cut by the club, he spent some time playing in the Illawarra competition.

Nathaniel Roach (26) – 2016-2019. 10 wins 16 losses. 2 tries

Nathaniel Roach appeared 26 times for the Warriors between 2016 and 2019, mainly from the bench as a back-up hooker. He left for Parramatta and appeared in one first grade game for them in 2021, unfortunately injuring his knee.

Aiden Kirk (20) – 2008-2009. 8 wins 12 losses. 8 tries. 3 finals 2 wins

Winger Aiden Kirk scored eight tries in 20 matches for the Warriors in 2008 and 2009, after playing in three consecutive NSW Cup grand finals for the Roosters and Newtown.

Kirk scored back-to-back tries in the Warriors’ 2008 semi-final and preliminary finals matches. The following year, Kirk struggled to maintain his first grade spot and only appeared five times before being released. He later played in the Central Coast competition.

Sonny Fai (15) – 2008. 8 wins 7 losses. 5 tries

Sonny Fai was destined for great things. He was the Warriors under-20s player of the year in 2007 and was selected in New Zealand representative sides throughout his junior years, culminating in making the training squads for both New Zealand and Samoa for the 2008 World Cup at just 20 years of age.

He appeared for the Warriors 15 times in 2008 as a second rower, centre and from the bench.

Tragically, Fai disappeared, presumed drowned in 2009 after being caught in rip while trying to save his younger brother.

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