NRL 2019: Foundation Warriors reflect heading into club's 25th season

In just a matter of hours, the Warriors will begin their 25th NRL season against the Canterbury Bulldogs in Auckland.

The club has come a long way since first entering the competition in 1995, having made the finals eight times and playing in two grand finals - 2002 and 2011.

On the eve of the new season, club legends from past years flooded into Mt Smart Stadium for lunch with the current squad after Friday's captains run.

Two of the players were former prop Tony Tuimavave and centre Tea Ropati, who both featured in the club's first game against the Brisbane Broncos on March 10, 1995.

Both Tuimavave and Ropati played significant roles in that match for different reasons.

"The first play of the game was me taking the ball up and getting smashed by the Broncos," Tuimavave told Newshub. 

"That was the beginning of things to come for the future of the club."

Tuimavave, 49, is reminded of the opening play of the inaugural fixture, with a massive picture in the club lounges showing the Broncos kicking the ball to the Warriors.

Tony Tuimavave points to himself in the club photo.
Tony Tuimavave points to himself in the club photo. Photo credit: Newshub

He can point out exactly where he's standing in the picture, and he recalls Glenn Lazarus smashing him.

"It is incredible looking at this picture with all the people there that night. Coming out to a haka and flames was unreal."

Ropati scored the Warriors' fourth try in the 25-22 defeat to the Broncos in front of 29,220 fans.

"I remember diving over the line to score," Ropati told Newshub.

"I often see replays, and people talk about that first game against the Broncos. It is a great memory and a reminder of how quickly times flies."

The Ropati and Tuimavave names have a rich history embedded in the club, not because they played in the inaugural match, but they both had family members who've gone onto represent the club.

Ropati (1995-98) played two seasons with his younger brother Iva (1996-97), while two of Tuimavave's nephews Evarn (2002-09) and Carlos (2012-14) played 105 and nine games respectively for the Warriors.

Both Tea and Tony are predicting big things for the Warriors in 2019, with Roptai picking the Newcastle Knights to face the New Zealand club in the Grand Final.


Join us at 5pm Saturday for live updates as the Warriors host the Bulldogs in Auckland.