Grand Final player profiles: Warriors
1. Kevin Locke
The Warriors have generated more tries from their own half of the field than any other top eight team in 2011 and Locke’s searing pace has been a key factor. Although slightly built, he does not lack for courage as he showed against the Roosters last year when he crashed into an upright to score a match-winning try.
2. Bill Tupou
Played three seasons of Toyota Cup with the Warriors before making his NRL debut against the Sea Eagles last year. Has cemented his place on the Warriors’ right wing over the second half of the 2011 season.
3. Lewis Brown
Born in Christchurch, Brown played junior football at Riccarton, a suburb hard hit by earthquakes in 2010-11.Named New Zealand’s international rookie of the year for 2010, Brown celebrates his 25th birthday the day after the grand final.
4. Krisnan Inu
With Lance Hohaia and Feleti Mateo, Inu is one of only three Warriors players with previous grand final experience. He played in the centres for the Eels in the 2009 decider against the Melbourne Storm.
5. Manu Vatuvei
Big Manu has an affinity with ANZ Stadium where he has crossed for seven tries in his last four games. In his only game at the Olympic venue for 2011, he crossed for a hat-trick against South Sydney.
6. James Maloney
Has chalked up 392 points in just two seasons with the Warriors – that places him third on the club’s all-time point-scorers list behind Stacey Jones (674) and current coach Ivan Cleary (439).
7. Shaun Johnson
Up against rookie of the year Daly Cherry-Evans, Johnson is the youngest and most inexperienced halfback to play in a grand final since Corey Hughes wore the number seven for Canterbury in 1998.
8. Sam Rapira
One of the catalysts for the Warriors’ surge to the grand final this season, Rapira made his comeback from a dislocated thumb that required surgery in Round 18. The Warriors then turned around four straight losses to win nine of their next 12 games.
9. Aaron Heremaia
One of the senior members of the Warriors line-up, Heremaia will play his final game for the club in the grand final before taking up a contract with English outfit Hull.
10. Jacob Lillyman
Lillyman has benefitted from his experience with the all-conquering Queensland State of Origin team to produce his best form in 2011. He has played six times for the Maroons including the series-winning game at Suncorp Stadium this season.
11. Feleti Mateo
Mateo is regarded as the off-load king of the NRL, releasing the ball 83 times in tackles in 2011. His ability to promote second-phase play has been a major factor in the Warriors’ success this season.
12. Simon Mannering (captain)
Becomes only the second Warriors player to captain the club in a grand final, following Stacey Jones in 2002, and has the opportunity to become the first New Zealand-born player to captain a premiership-winning team since Bill Kelly (Balmain) in 1915.
13. Micheal Luck
Caught Melbourne by surprise when he passed to five-eighth James Maloney for a preliminary final try at AAMI Park. It was Luck’s first try assist of the season.
14. Lance Hohaia
Played in a grand final in his first season with the Warriors in 2002, now will play in a decider in his final match for the club. Hohaia will join English club St Helens in 2012.
15. Russell Packer
The 21-year-old Levin (North Island) junior is regarded as one of the best up and coming front-rowers in the game and has a strong chance of forcing a place in the Kiwis’ squad for the upcoming Four Nations series.
16. Ben Matulino
The rangy back-rower supplies the Warriors with outstanding strike-power off the bench and has already acquired an impressive array of accomplishments at the age of 22. He was named in the Toyota Cup Team of the Year in 2008, made his Test debut the following season and last year was a member of the Kiwis’ Four Nations winning team.
17. Elijah Taylor
Captained the Warriors’ grand final-winning Toyota Cup team in 2010, and just 12 months later has the opportunity to play in a grand final-winning NRL team.
Coach: Ivan Cleary
His decision to cut ties with the Warriors at the end of the season and link with Penrith in 2012 has had nothing but a positive effect on the Auckland outfit. Has led the Warriors to the finals four times in the past five seasons.