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2002 will long be remembered as the tale of three clubs. For the Warriors the dream of that first NRL title was within the clubs grasp at last. For the Canterbury Bulldogs a season that offered so much was about to turn into a nightmare. The 7 year old Warriors club won it's first title of significance when they were handed the J.J. Giltinan shield for winning the 2002 minor premiership, effectively meaning they won the marathon league of the NRL by winning more round robin games than any other club. I use the term gifted because the Canterbury Bulldogs won more games in the regular season than the Warriors but were stripped of all of their competiton points for serious sellery cap breaches. All 37 point acrewed by the Bulldogs were stripped with just 2 weeks of the competition to run before the finals series started. 2002 would the only time in the Bulldogs history that they would finish last and collect the dreaded wooden spoon. Newly appointed NRL CEO David Gallop described the breaches as "exceptional in both it's size and it's deliberate and ongoing nature". The club recieved a fine of $500,000 dollars as well as deduction of points.

A foundation club would re-enter into the big league. The South Sydney Rabbitohs were to recieve a court ruling in 2001 granting them re-admitance into the NRL after two years of hard lobbying from the club it's self, supports and and big name supporters like Peter Holmes à Court and Hollywood super star Russel Crowe. The pair would later go on to own the Rabbitohs.

For the long suffering rugby league fans in New Zealand 2002 was to begin an 10 year stretch that really stamped rugby league into the conscientiousness of a nation. After the club success of the Warriors in 2002 the nation would go onto see a 2005 tri nations victory by the Kiwis in England, a 2008 world cup triumph, a 2010 four nations win and a return to grand final for the New Zealand Warriors. On the way to the grand final the Warriors put to bed several demons. Importantly for the Warriors they finally beat the Wests Tigers and beating the Knights in Newcastle for the first time. On successive weekends the Warriors scored 118 points for and only 30 against, wholloping the Northern Eagles and North Queensland. Daniel Anderson the Dally M coach of the year award and Ali Lauiti'iti won the Dally M for the second rower of the year. Club owner opened his personal wallet when he brought 10,000 tickets for the Warriors vs. Cronulla play off at the Telstra stadium, giving them away free to anyone with a New Zealand passport. Another first for the club in a season of firsts was hosting it's first ever finals match at home in front of a sell out crowd of 25,800 screaming fans. For the club and it's fan's rugby league was suddenly becoming popular with media types fawning over it and politions looking for photo oppotunities. The club brought particularly well over the off season and found the missing parts to the jigsaw puzzle that would take them from a quarter finals wannabe in 2001 to grand final contenters in 2002. The players that really made a difference to the balance of the side in 2002 were John Carlaw, P.J. Marsh and Brent Webb. Also picked up for that season was Sione Faumuina. Ali Lauiti'iti won the player of the year award. When not required for NRL action that season the club released players to play for local Bartercard cup teams. No official affiliations with feeder teams were in place in 2002.