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1998 season review logo at www.theNZwarriorsonline.com

1998 was the first season that the Australasian rugby league was called the NRL. It would mark the end of the rugby league war that had besieged the game globally, tearing apart a game that was on the verge making big in roads into the global market. Several clubs payed the price for the reunification of the game and the mighty Melbourne Storm were set to join the big time. Out however went the Hunter Marniers, Perth Western Reds and South Queensland Crushers. For The newly minted NRL trophy, won by the Broncos in 1998the Auckland Warriors it was more of the same with lackluster results on the field and falling crowd attendances in the stands. The lack of income coupled with the exorbitant wages, a hang over from the Super League wars, would prove to be almost to much for the club and it's owners to deal with. Some of the financial pressure was eased when big ticket player Marc Ellis requested aMalcolm Boyle (left) and Graham Lowe (right). release fromThe press conference that announced Marc Ellis was leaving the Auckland Warriors. From left to right are Bill MacGowan, Marc Ellis, Chris Ellis (Marc's father and manager), and Doug Rollerson (CEO of North Harbour Rugby and former North Sydney Bears halfback). the final 2 years of his contract to move back to rugby union with the North Harbour union. Towards the end of the 1998 the inevitable sale took place with the sale of the club taking place and Waikato Maori tribe Tainui buying the club in crisis. At the time Tainui were lead by mad rugby league fan Robert Mahuta, later knighted to be known as Sir Robert Mahuta.

With spending out of hand and in danger of destroying the game the newly formed NRL board imposed a $3 million salery cap on clubs involved in the NRL, thus protecting the clubs from themselves though it would prove differcult in later years for Ian Schubert, the NRL auditor, to police the clubs with mutiple breaches from multiply clubs. The 1998 offical song of the NRL was the smash hit from Chumbawamba, "Tub thumping". The 1998 season would prove to the last for several clubs with the Gold Coast Chargers club being force to fold along with the Adelaide Rams. 78 year old St George Dragons played it's last game as a stand alone club and merged with the Illawarra Steelers to form the St George Illawarra Dragons which play home games at Oki Jubilee Stadium (the St George Dragons home ground) and at WIN Stadium (the Illawarra Steelers) home ground.

For the Warriors they at last started getting some sustained game time from their highly paided captain, Matthew Ridge after a season in 1997 in which the champion fullback was barely sighted on the paddock. Due to the cost cutting that had been carried out at the start of the 1998 season the reserve grade competition had been scrapped which left the Warriors reserves with no competition to play in. Instead the reserves embarked on a series of 18 games against teams from around the country such as Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and West Coast as well as other games around New Zealand. The club lost a host of players at the end of 1998, included foundation player Phil Blake and notable first graders Hitro Okesene, Denis Betts and Grant Young. Notable gains were the return of Nigel Vagana and Tony Tatupu from the Warrington Wolves, Kevin Iro from the defunct Hunter Mariners and Quentin Pongia from Canberra. Along side Tainui came former Kiwis coach Graham Lowe and Malcolm Boyle as part owners of the club, with the pair putting in around $50,000 of their own money. The trinity of owners sacked CEO Bill MacGowan, senior coach Frank Endacott and cut jobs of other long term stalwarts. The 1998 jersey was designed by Nike with DB Bitter again the clubs principle sponsor with Bartercard as the sleeve sponsor. The player of the year award went to Joe Vagana.

Matthew RidgeKevin IroStacey JonesSteve Kearney Joe VaganaQuentin PongiaThe champion Brisbane Broncos of 1998

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