The New Zealand Warriors are a professional rugby league football team from Auckland, New Zealand. They are a competitor club in the National Rugby League (NRL) premiership. They have the distinction of being the NRL’s only club from outside of Australia. The club is officially known as the Vodaphone Warriors due to sponsorship rights.
The club has yet to win a premiership, but they have managed to win a minor premiership and have made previous Grand Final appearances. The club has reached the play-off on eight different occasions, and the club contributes the majority of the countries national team players. The club has a passionate fan base in New Zealand and many supporters in Australia.
The club was first formed in 1995 under the name the Auckland Warriors. The country had a long history in Rugby League prior to then however. Rugby league had been an Auckland past time for a long time, spanning from the foundation of the New Zealand Rugby League in 1909. The city produced the majority of international squad members for many decades. Most professional players from New Zealand eventually found themselves in Australia or Great Britain to play. An Auckland team played in the Amco Cup competition during 1978 and remained in the competition each year until the 80s. In 1998, serious consideration was given to adding an Auckland team to the New South Wales Rugby League premiership but it wasn’t until 1992 that it was announced that an Auckland team would be joining the competition. The club played their first season in 1995.
The New Zealand Warriors are still yet to win a premiership, but have managed to secure a number of other awards since their inception including one minor premiership win, two runner-up places and three Holden Cup wins. The club has yet to receive a Wooden Spoon.
There are a number of notable individual records boasted by the clubs players as well including highest point scorer Shaun Johnson with 919 points, and most capped Simon Mannering (301).
The clubs biggest ever winning margin was in a 66 point win over the South Sydney Rabbitohs during a 2006 game at Telstra Stadium. Their biggest ever loss was to the Penrith Panthers at Centrebet Stadium during a 2013 game where the Panthers defeated them 6-62. The clubs highest number of consecutive wins was an 8 match win streak in 2002 between rounds 7 and 14. Their biggest ever losing streak was an 11 game streak between 2012 and 2013. They repeated the streak in 2015 to 2016. The New Zealand Warriors biggest ever comeback during a game was when they recovered by 20 points in game against the Newcastle Knights where they were initially behind at 20-0 39 minutes into the game. They eventually went on to win 30-26 in the 2005 game. The clubs worst ever points collapse was when they ceded a 26 point lead to the Penrith Panthers 59 minutes into the game. The 2009 game ended in a 32-32 point draw. The club have also surrendered an 18 point lead three times in their history, once to the West Tigers, again to the Newcastle Knights and finally in a game against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. The club also has some impressive attendance records to their name including a 38,405 record at Eden Park in a 2011 match against the Parramatta Eels, a 32,174 crowds at Mt Smart Stadium in a match against the Illawarra Steelers and a 30,111 crowd at Westpac stadium in a match against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
The New Zealand Warriors have been profitable in recent years; in fact they were one of only three clubs to post a profit in 2016, a year when every other club posted a loss of $4.5 million or more.
The club benefit from strong membership numbers and merchandise sales. As the only NRL team from New Zealand they have very little competition for their fan base and consequently do quite well with attendance and sales. Like many of the NRL teams the club makes revenue from a mixture of sources including ticket sales, food and drink sales, merchandise sales, broadcasting and sponsorship deals and their leagues club.
The home ground of the New Zealand Warriors is the Mount Smart Stadium, an impressive stadium that was built within the Mount Smart volcanic cone. The stadium was built in the suburb of Penrose. The stadium holds around 47,000 people at full capacity. The site has been the home ground of the New Zealand Warriors since they were first founded in 1995.
Stephen Kearney is the current head coach of the New Zealand Warriors and a previous professional rugby league player. He has previously played for a number of teams including the Randwick Kingfishers, Western Suburbs Magpies and Melbourne Storm. Stephen Kearney has also previously coached the Parramatta Eels.
Emblem and Colours
The New Zealand Warriors originally used blue, white red and green for their colours when the club was first founded in 1995. The colours were chosen because blue and white are the colours of Auckland and white and green were the colours of the New Zealand Warriors very first sponsor, DB Bitter. Their first logo was designed by Francis Allen from Colenso.
The club has recently introduced a jersey that calls back to their initial design and colour palette. The blue shade was removed from their jerseys in 2001. Over the teams history they have played in a mix of designs that have include blue, red and white, black and white and green, red, white and blue designs.
The clubs mascot is known as Tiki the Mascot who attends the home games of the club.
The New Zealand warriors has a devoted fan base throughout New Zealand, and strong membership numbers owing to the fact that they are the only New Zealand team to participate in the NRL competition. The club has a lively fan base who communicates through online forums.
The New Zealand Warriors started off strong in 1995 with a match against the Brisbane Broncos at the newly updated Mount Smart Stadium. The club opened to a crowd of 30,000 spectators and led for much of the game but were ultimately defeated 25-22.
The club won against Western Suburbs but were docked several points due to an interchange error. The loss of the points ended up costing the club their entry into the finals later on in the competition. Their first season lacked consistency, the clubs won by 20 points or more on several occasions and even maintained a six match win streak later in the season, but when they lost they lost spectacularly.
In 1996 the club took part in the Super League war and played their first round against the Brisbane Broncos, following the boycott of all of the clubs for the first round of the competition. The Warriors looked like they were going to make finals at the sixth round, but they ended up losing their next four matches and missed out on making the finals.
In 1997 the club failed to make a dent in the competition and it was largely a forgettable year, although Coach Frank Endacott was replaced mid-way through the year.
In 1998 the club finished in 15th place. They improved the following year with an 11th place win and a new coach, Mark Graham. In 2000 the club came second last, the season involved the Warriors biggest ever loss to date in a match against the Dragons. The club also suffered from bad financial issues and the club began to suffer as a result due to the release of a number of players from their contracts. This was the same year that the club had their name change from the Auckland Warriors to the New Zealand Warriors, and their colours were changed to black and grey.
The 2001 season was the first time the club made it to the finals series, making it to 8th place. The club struggled in mid-season but came out victorious in a number of impressive home game matches.
The following year was the best New Zealand Warriors year to date. The club won their first minor premiership and finished in first place at the end of the season. They made it to the Grand Final, a match played against the Sydney Roosters and lost the match 8-30. They again had a successful year in 2003, finishing with a top 8 spot and the clubs first play-off spot. The club played their first finals game against the Bulldogs and won the game 48-22. They made it to the preliminary finals but lost to the Penrith Panthers 20-28.
The 2004 season was a bad year for the New Zealand Warriors; in fact it was their worst year yet. The club only managed to win six games for the year and finished in equal last, but managed to escape the wooden spoon due to a superior point’s differential. In 2005 the club improved to finish in 11th place. Their 2006 season was tarred by salary cap drama which saw the club gets fined $430,000. Despite being expected to gain a wooden spoon, the club managed to make it to 10th place. The 2007 season was a return to form with the club making it to 4th place in the competition. They again managed to make it to a top 8 position in 2008 but struggled the following year, finishing in 2009. They returned to the finals in 2010 and 2011, finishing in 5th and 6th place respectively but they tumbled down the ladder to the 14th position in 2012. They remained closer to the bottom of the ladder in 2013 in 11th place. The following year the club made it to 9th place and place 13th during their 20th season in the NRL competition. The 2016 was disappointing despite some star player signings. In the 2017 season the club again struggled, disappointing fans. Their supporter’s faith was restored in 2018 however, with a finishing place in the top 8. The club made it to the finals for the first time since 2011. The club had a good end to the 2019 season with a win against the Canberra Raiders.
The New Zealand Warriors participate in a number of local community programs and groups with the aim of making a difference to the life of New Zealanders. They take part in a number of programs designed to promote health and wellness to young people and other stakeholders throughout New Zealand. Programs that the club participates in includes the ACC Sportsmart program and the future Warriors holiday program for school-aged children. The club also has a number of charity partners including Shine, Ronald McDonald House, Le Va and Paralympics NZ.