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1996 season review logo at www.theNZwarriorsonline.com


1996, the second season for the fledgling Auckland club, got off to a faltering start when the Auckland club flew across the Tasman sea to sunny Queensland to take on the Brisbane Broncos with only non Super League contracted players from the Auckland club competition, mainly from the Otahuhu Leopards and Ellerslie Eagles. Effectively arriving in Brisbane with no test stars, no NRL stars and no real chance against the mighty Broncos. The Broncos took the decision to forfeit the game which in fact was a game that neither the Broncos nor Warriors had any intention of playing. But the Super League story really started all the way back in 1982 when News LTD took over the merchandising of socks, jerseys, shorts and memorabilia from the NSWRL, taking sales of these products from $700aus a year to over $700,000aus a year by 1991. To a degree the NSWRL was a victim of it's own succesfull promotional campaign also when Tina Turner came on board with her smash hit "what you get is what you see" and a year later with another block buster song "you're simply the best".News LTD quickly recognized the huge earning potential that the Winfield cup offered and set about courting the NSWRL and later the ARL with a view to taking the game global through the companys pay satellite platform. With the Winfield cup aligned to the News competitor Optus and Kerry Packer war broke out for rights to broadcast the game. It was to be a bitter war with life long friendships broken, contracts written and tore up at a wim and players signing life changing contracts. News LTD, the ARL and Kerry Packers Otus had been locked in a legal battle since 1995 and when Justice James Burchett brought down his decision on 23rd of february 1996 that ruled the proposed Super League competition was illigal it saw the Super League aligned clubs forfeiting games in the early rounds of the 20 team Optus cup. The ARL took early action against the Super League aligned clubs by excluding them from the rugby league world sevens of 1996. As a result of this the Super League clubs took park in the Super League 1996 world nines which included the 14 countries that had signed with News LTD and Super League plus the Australian Super League players. New Zealand won the 1996 tournament. By october of 1996 News LTD had won an appeal against the Burchett ruling and as a result Super League was allowed to proceed for the 1997 season. Auckland were riding well through out most of the 1996 and in fact looked to be going one better than they had in 1995 when they missed the finals due to an interchange error. With just 4 rounds left in the regular season the club was in sixth position. The Warriors lost of their next 4 games to tumble out of finals contention. 1996 was to be the last season for world class centre and Kiwis test hero Dean Bell. Along with Bell the club either lost the services of or terminated the contracts of another 10 first graders with the North Queensland Cowboys seemly keen to take up the services of some of the departing Warriors with Whetu Taewa, Se'e Solomona and Willie Poching all heading to Townsville. Another notable loss from the playing roster at the end of that season was Frano Botica who returned to the European Super League with the Castleford Tigers before switching back to rugby union with Llanelli RFC. On the positive side of the ledger the Warriors signed two All Blacks for 1996 in Marc Ellis and Mark Carter. At the height of the Ian Robson open cheque book days the Auckland Warriors were spending near on a million dollars annually on pre match entertainment. And after a bidding war with other English and Australian clubs ended up spending $800,000nzd a season on Denis Betts as well as as many flights home to England and back as the star second rower wanted. Rumour and legend has it that the local Maori tribe sent a delegation to visit Ian Robson on the matter of the clubs tekoteko logo. The Maori elders claimed that the tekoteko logo's tongue was pointing in the wrong direction and represented weakness and femininity. The Maori even took the matter as far as protesting outside the offices of major sponsors the Dominion Breweries. After being ignored legend has it that the Maori put a curse on the club.


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