Seasons

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A new name, new coaches, new owners, a fresh start. 2001 would be a water shed year for the newly renamed club. For the first time in it's brief history the club would be playing september football. Or in other words, it was playing finals football for the first time. Durring the 2001 season the cash strapped Tainui tribe sold it's ownership of the Auckland Warriors along with it's NRL licence but controversially the sale did not include player contracts, effectively meaning Eric Watson and Cullen sports did not have to honor outstanding payments missed to many players from the 2000 season. This left a sour taste in the mouth of some players and engendered ill will between the parties. Big Joe Vagana was one such player that left the club due to the wages situation. Another first for the club in 2001 was beating the powerhouse Brisbane Broncos for the first time in the clubs history. The Warriors beat the Broncos for the first time at Ericsson Stadium, 13 - 12. Unfortunately for the Warriors the Broncos hit back in the return match on the Gold Coasts Carrara stadium with a vengence 12 - 48. Former Auckland Warriors captain Matthew stepped away from rugby league on the field and stepped into it off the field when he was appointed as board member of the club. Ridges friendship with owner Eric Watson lead to his appointment on the board and for sometime was considering investing his own money into the club, but in the end declined to invest. 2001 was a huge year for player turn over for the club with some 18 players either signing for other clubs or retiring from rugby league completely. Jerry Seuseu had a stellar season for the club in 2001, picking up the clubs player of the season award. The club made several worthy and smart purchases in the player market for the start of the 2001 season. Most notably were Kevin Campion from the Brisbane Broncos, already a duel premiership winner with the Broncos and Richard Villisanti who came to the club with little fanfare and with almost no reputation but would leave the club 5 years later having made the Australian test team from the Warriors and becoming a cult hero for Warriors fans everywhere with his body crushing big hits and hard charges with the ball. Though less heralded than Campion Justin Morgan brought with him a smart footballers brain and work ethic that rubbed off on the young players around him, making an impression on the younger players that would see them work harder and play smarter than they themselves thought possible. Although the had no agreements in place with clubs in the NSWRL or Queensland cup it did however farm out players to various Bartercard cup when the players needed match fitness or were returning from injury.

An injury depleted New Zealand Warriors side made history on september the 9th when they took the field against the Parramatta Eels at Parramatta stadium. The team would be on the recieving end of a one sided walloping from the grand final bound Eels 12 - 56 but the result was irrelevant in the final washup. What was important is that the club had proven to themselves and the wider rugby league world that they were now a well organised professional club on and off the field, with realistic ambitions.


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