23 Apr 2024

NRL: A different kind of Anzac Day fixture for the Warriors

7:11 pm on 23 April 2024
Tohu Harris of the Warriors after his 100th game.

Tohu Harris of the Warriors after his 100th game. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

For the first time in almost a decade, the Warriors will play their traditional Anzac Day NRL fixture at home.

It has been the culmination of a concerted effort by chief executive Cameron George to get the game back on home soil, but skipper Tohu Harris admitted that it would feel a bit strange not playing the Melbourne Storm.

"I would love to be playing (the Storm) here at home. I enjoy playing against Melbourne and I want to play a home game against them on this day," Harris said.

"I enjoy it, I love … playing against Melbourne and being a part of that occasion, I really enjoy every moment of it. It's going to be a different feeling preparing for this occasion at home, but one I'm really looking forward to."

Instead, the Warriors take on the winless Gold Coast Titans on Thursday afternoon, a replay of the club's first ever Anzac Day match in 2015. Ever since then it was played in Melbourne and Harris has more experience than anyone else, having played on both sides of the fixture since 2016.

"I've been fortunate enough to play on Anzac Day, be a part of the day every year. It's going to be a special occasion playing here in New Zealand, the team's really excited to mark the occasion with a really good performance," Harris said, while also noting that despite their ladder position, the Titans remain a real threat.

"They're going to be coming over hungry and desperate to get their first win … it's certainly going to be a challenge and fitting of the Anzac Day tradition."

Not only was it a tradition because of the day it fell on, the Warriors' Anzac Day fixture had been a pretty handy benchmark for where the team was after a decent chunk of the season. Last year saw a very gritty 30-22 loss to the Storm, in a game the Warriors led at halftime and Harris had to retire from due to a knee injury. The team then went on to make a dream run to the preliminary finals.

Tohu Harris of the Warriors reacts to an injury during the round eight Anzac Day NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors.

Tohu Harris of the Warriors reacts to an injury during the round eight Anzac Day NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors. Photo: Morgan Hancock/Photosport

However, in 2022 the Warriors were put to the sword 70-10, going on to finish 11th.

The club also confirmed on Tuesday that a 180-strong group made up of New Zealand Army, Navy and Air Force personnel will take part in the pre-match ceremony, in front of the Warriors fifth straight sold out crowd this season.

Coach Andrew Webster said that the Warriors fanbase deserved a home game on Anzac Day.

"I'm really proud of why we've got a game, Cameron George made a big deal about why we deserve one off the back of last year. Our fans have created that … they obviously feel like there's going to be a level of respect around Anzac Day and I don't think our fans are going to let anyone down around that.

"Rugby league should never be compared to war, it's nothing like what (the Anzacs) did, it's completely different but it's a cool way to show respect."

Webster said that the side would be mostly unchanged to the one that was beaten 30-12 by the St George-Illawarra Dragons on Friday night.

"We have to take a lot from that game and learn from it," Harris said.

"The result came from some very clear things from our own actions. We have to be better this week against a side that is throwing everything into their getting their first win … we've got a team that can do some special things. Right now, we're not playing to our standard, so we've got to get that fixed."

Warriors v Titans

Kick-off: 4pm, Thursday 25 April

Go Media Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland

Live blog updates on RNZ Sport

Warriors (five to be omitted): 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Rocco Berry 4. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Te Maire Martin 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Wayde Egan 10. Mitch Barnett 11. Jackson Ford 12. Jacob Laban 13. Tohu Harris (c)

Reserves: 14. Dylan Walker 15. Tom Ale 16. Zyon Maiu'u 17. Paul Roache 18. Adam Pompey 20. Taine Tuaupiki 21. Ali Leiataua 22. Ed Kosi 23. Tanner Stowers-Smith