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1997 season review logo at www.theNZwarriorsonline.com 


Former Kiwi international Dean Lonergan arrived at Auckland Warriors headquarters in 1996 and before to long he knew what he had to do, remove Ian Robson as the clubs CEO. And by the start of 1997 Lonergan had achieved his goal. Robson wasn't the only member of the Warriors original brains trust to exit the club in 1997. First grade coach John Monie would also exit the club midway through the season with Kiwis test coach and Warriors reserve grade coach appointed as the clubs premiership coach. A John Stevens, ex Noiseworks, cover of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's hit single "when two tribes go to war" kicked off Super League season. It was a fitting song due to not only the nature of rugby league but because of the on going league wars ripping the game apart across the rugby league globe. Super league brought in two new clubs to boost club numbers and for a greater geographical footprint. Super league launch with the advertising slogan "Super League: It's out of this world" with the theme of players running through outer space. The campaign was put together by Sydney based advertising outfit Mojo. On the field the Warriors had another poorish season finishing 7th out of 10 teams in the Super League but made it through to the semi finals of the world club challenge or the Visa World Club Championship as it was officially known. With the Broncos taking on the ill fated Hunter Mariners. The Broncos won the final 36 - 12, played at Ericsson stadium Auckland. The Super League grand final was won by the Brisbane Broncos, Beating the Cronulla Sharks 26 - 8. In the ARL run Optus cup Newcastle beat the Manly Sea Eagles with a last minute try to Darren Albert after champion half Andrew Johns darted down a blind side to put Albert away for the winner. Thousands of hearts broke on the northern beaches of Sydney while the entire city of Newcastle went into party mode. For the Warriors it was another year to forget with John Monie being made to move on as head coach and Kiwis test coach Frank Endacott stepping into the vacant head coaches roll. With Endacott now the first grade coach former Kiwi coach Gary Kemble moved into the reserve grade coaches roll. Captain Matthew Ridge continued with his horror run with the Warriors. Injuries and suspension ment the courageous Kiwis and Warriors skipper played in just 9 games all season. Ridges massive pay packet of around $700,000 a season and lack of game time had media questioning his worthiness to the Warriors and in particular Murray Decker launched into a stinging prolonged attack on Ridge on his radio show. Ridge had been the marque signing for the club when he came to the Warriors from ARL aligned Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. Bill MacGowan came on board with the Warriors as the clubs CEO to replace Ian Robson in february of 1997. MacGowan would go onto lead New Zealand football and New Zealand golf in later years. Financial wows continued to hinder the club. As part owners of the Auckland Warriors the New Zealand rugby league were being asked by the club to plow more and more money into the operations of the club. The cash strapped NZRL were hard pressed to find the repeated requests for money by the Warriors. Cuts had to be made by the NZRL in order to part fund the Warriors and as such the Lion Red cup was to be a paired down version of it's former self as a direct result of the money issues experienced by the Warriors. To this day, some 15 years after the NZRL sold it's interest in the Warriors it is still experiencing cash flow problems as a result of the needs of the Warriors. Throughout the course of the 1997 seasons secret talks were being conducted primarily between Ian Frykberg of Super League and Neil Whittiaker of the ARL. Towards the end of the talks it was decided that ARL power broker Ken Arthurson would stand down as a sign of good faith and it was in no small part that this selfless act paved the way for a reunified competition.


Telstra phone card featuring Steve KearneyTelstra phone card featuring Marc EllisTelstra phone card featuring Matthew RidgePaul Harragan holds aloft the Optus cup 1997The Australasian Super League trophy 1997Broncos prop Brad Thorn holds up the Super League trophy 1997

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