Throw Back Thursday – Once Were Warriors
Each week, thanks to Cryo, we look back at a significant moment in our rich history. With Saturday’s match against the Warriors, today we remember them in our return to the second grade.
ONCE WERE WARRIORS
While the Warriors may be Newtown’s opposition this weekend, it wasn’t too long ago that the men from Mt Smart were our allies. In fact, if it weren’t for the Warriors, Newtown may never have participated at Canterbury Cup level.
As many fans would know, after being eliminated from the top grade in 1983, Newtown resumed playing in the third-tier Metropolitan Cup from 1991. In late 1994, the club established a close relationship with fellow foundation club South Sydney, which had seen the Rabbitohs provide funding to the Bluebags’ football operations with the intention of eventually making us their reserve grade team. However, before these plans could go ahead, the Rabbitohs were expelled from the NRL, leaving the Jets in a perilous position.
Enter the Auckland Warriors! Thanks to some last-minute negotiations from Newtown power brokers, an agreement was hatched that would see Newtown step up from Metropolitan Cup into the second tier First Division competition (now the Canterbury Cup) as the Warriors’ feeder club in the year 2000.
Newtown would receive access to up to 15 Warriors contracted players across the season significantly strengthening the club’s playing ranks. In exchange for supporting the Jets, the Warriors’ reserve players would participate in the highly competitive and semi-professional NSWRL First Division, rather than the largely amateur New Zealand domestic competition.
The agreement – now a standard in second grade rugby league – was revolutionary at the time. There were several logistical issues to overcome. As it transpired, Warriors players would fly from Auckland to Sydney a day or two before each match. Many were billeted at the home of Bluebags legend, Brian “Chicka” Moore. Not surprisingly, the agreement was only rubber-stamped two weeks out from the competition kicking off, meaning that many of the players representing Newtown in the opening game against the Dragons met each other for the first time on game day!
The partnership proved to be a relatively successful one as Newtown narrowly missed the finals on for and against. Throughout the season, the Jets were bolstered by the likes of Mark Tookey, Clinton Toopi, Wairangi Koopu, Jerry Seu Seu, Awen Guttenbeil, Joe Galuvao, Terry Hermannson and others. Six of the Auckland Warriors players who turned out for Newtown in 2000 played for the Warriors in the 2002 NRL Grand Final.
The season was also a homecoming of sorts as Newtown experimented with playing at Henson Park for the first time since 1983. Three matches were held at our traditional home and the success of the venture led to a full time move the following year.
Unfortunately, the partnership with the Warriors was short lived. At the end of 2000, the Auckland Warriors were sold and then re-branded as New Zealand Warriors. The new owners opted to end the feeder arrangement with Newtown but the Jets were here to stay in the second grade at Henson Park. For that, we owe the Warriors a debt of gratitude.
Photo: The Newtown Jets team from Round 1, 2000 – our first game in the NSWRL First Division. The Jets hosted St George-Illawarra at Redfern Oval.
Back row: Tere Glassie, Adam Bennett (obscured), Jason Bell (obscured), Phil Howlett, Peter Howie, Odell Manuell, Clinton Toopi, Paul Carige, David Myers, Wairangi Koopu, Terry Hermannson.
Front row: Brad Westaway, David Howlett, Clinton McAuliffe, Luke Wardle, Luke Goodwin (Capt), Tony Catton, Jared Mills, Joey Bishop, Daniel Cross, Luke Ellis.
The team coach was Col Murphy.
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