Feleti Mateo loves the annual clashes between the Warriors and Melbourne. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Long-time Blues hopeful Feleti Mateo has yet to crack the Origin arena, let alone find himself on the international stage.
But while the 29-year-old continues to hold out hope of a late call-up from Laurie Daley, for now the annual ANZAC Day clash with the Storm makes it as close he might get to another rep game.
Given no team – either at club, state or international level – has been able to give Melbourne's big three of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk as many problems as the Warriors have, Mateo and his Warriors teammates have every reason to circle the date in 2014.
And it seems supporters from both sides of the Tasman do the same thing, with the growing rivalry attracting over 20,000 fans through the gates in six of their past seven games.
Since the first instalment of the traditional clash in 2009, Melbourne hold a 3-1 advantage (with one draw) over the Warriors. Overall, however, the Auckland-based side have won four of their past eight against the perennial heavyweights with all but one decided by 10 points or less.
"There's always a lot of attention around playing other Kiwis in other teams," Mateo told NRL.com.
"There are a fair few Kiwis in the Roosters and obviously the Storm. We seem to be Melbourne's bogy team, or we always tend to play good against them, too. Those two, and Manly games are also big."
The Warriors have lost seven of their past eight against the Sea Eagles, and but have a surprisingly better 5-3 record against the defending premiers. But it's the game played in April that holds most significance for Mateo and many of his Kiwi teammates.
The corresponding fixture last year had the Warriors leading 18-16 with just eight minutes to go before the Storm secured a dramatic victory with two late tries.
Melbourne threatened to steal the return bout in Round 20, but a try to Kevin Locke in the 78th minute thwarted the comeback.
"It's definitely a massive game for us. It's probably the closest thing that the boys have to a Test match," he said.
"Representing the Warriors whilst also representing New Zealand with all that ANZAC pride coming into effect, singing the anthems before the game... it definitely makes it a big occasion."