Stat Attack: Kiwi-born players on the rise
Saturday night's meeting between the Warriors and Kiwi-heavy Wests Tigers will feature a whopping 19 New Zealand-born players, making it the second-biggest NZ representation in an NRL match.
The record in one Telstra Premiership game is the 21 Kiwis who took part in the Warriors-Broncos round 12 clash last year, according to rugby league stats guru David Middleton.
That Brisbane team boasted the likes of Alex Glenn, Kodi Nikorima, Joe Ofahengaue, Jordan Kahu, Adam Blair and Benji Marshall.
Those last two names will be on display again this weekend at new clubs, with Blair moving to the Warriors and Marshall back at the Tigers.
All up, the Warriors' 17-man list for this weekend features three Australian-born players in Blake Green, James Gavet and club debutant Karl Lawton, plus Tongan pair Solomone Kata and Agnatius Paasi, Apia-born skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, and 11 Kiwis. It would likely have been 12 had Jazz Tevaga not suffered a shoulder injury to hand Lawton a club debut (if Issac Luke fails to pass a fitness test on his shoulder his likely replacement is fellow New Zealander Sam Cook).
There are a further eight in the Tigers team in Marshall, Esan Marsters, Elijah Taylor, Ben Matulino, Pita Godinet, Josh Aloiai, Sauao Sue and Michael Chee Kam.
This graphic highlights the Kiwi dominance on show this weekend. Bear in mind players are shown according to where they were born rather than their national allegiance – for example, Sydney-born Kevin Naiqama represents Fiji and Samoa-born Tuivasa-Sheck represents New Zealand at Test level.
"It's always good to go back home to play in front of friends and family," Elijah Taylor said.
"Warriors is where I came through the under 20s system and played all my juniors, coming into first-grade as well so it's always special playing at Mt Smart Stadium.
"I have a lot of great memories there at the Warriors and it's good to see they are playing some great football.
"You look at their team, it's a very formidable team, there are a lot of Kiwi Internationals in that team and they're coached by Stephen Kearney. I've spent some time with him at the Kiwis and he's a great coach so we definitely have our work cut out for us over there in Auckland."
Taylor said it would be a big night for New Zealand rugby league, especially coming off a disappointing World Cup campaign.
"Any NRL games in Auckland help the rugby league sport over there, whenever the Warriors are going well rugby league seems to go well as well so I'm looking forward to a big crowd there at Mt Smart Stadium," Taylor added.
Esan Marsters said he was looking forward to getting back home for a match.
"It definitely is a good thing to play back in New Zealand, a lot of my family are still over there so it will be good to get a try in front of them," Marsters said.
"Watching the Warriors play against other teams was pretty massive for me when I was little.
"The Warriors have been going really well in the last couple of weeks and have really set the bench mark for themselves as a team. I think we really want to go over there and play our best footy like we normally do and hopefully we can get back on track. "