Ben Francis: Second-best NZ Warriors XVII to never take field (together)

OPINION: Last week, Newshub looked at the best NZ Warriors XVII from the 243 players that have worn the jersey since 1995. 

Some tough calls had to be made, with some great players missing out on the best team, but still clear favourites for a 'Second XVII'. 

But even then, the calls got tricky and some top talent got snubbed again. 

The First XVII has 2585 Warriors games' of experience, much more than the second with 1879.

1-Ivan Cleary 

53 matches (2000-02), 12 tries, 195 goals, one field goal 

The talented goalkicking fullback ended his playing career in Auckland, before returning to coach the team during a successful period.

Funnily enough, his last games at the club in both cases were Grand Finals. 

2-Henry Fa'afili 

94 matches (2000-03), 34 tries 

A strong tryscorer, who was also known for his famous 'cracking the coconut' try celebration, where he marked each try by pretending the ball was a coconut, cracking it open and then drinking the milk from it.

Henry Fa'afili in action for the Warriors
Henry Fa'afili in action for the Warriors. Photo credit: Photosport

Ended up moving to the UK and had a stint playing that other code. 

3-Nigel Vagana 

71 matches (1996, 98-2000), 37 tries 

While the centre's best years were at the Canterbury Bulldogs, Vagana had a big impact at the Warriors and was the club's leading try-scorer over two seasons.

4-David Fusitu'a

98 matches (2013-present), 60 tries

The wing-turned- centre is still building his legacy at the Warriors, but has the skills to go down as a great.

He's currently the longest-serving player at the club and has become one of the Warriors' few consistent performers in recent years.

His acrobatic put-downs are always a highlight and he equalled Meli's club record for most tries in a season. 

5-Sean Hoppe

88 matches (1995-99), 44 tries

Hoppe was part of the Warriors inaugural side in 1995 and became a regular first-team player.

He was voted the competition’s best winger in 1995 and his 19 tries led the team in that debut season.

6-Gene Ngamu

81 games (1995-99), 11 tries, 118 goals, one field goal

Ngamu was a foundation member at the Warriors and is best remembered for the strong havles partnership he formed with Stacey Jones.

Gene Ngamu in action for the Warriors
Gene Ngamu in action for the Warriors. Photo credit: Newshub.

Against the Cowboys in 1996, he scored three tries and kicked eight goals for a 28-point haul, still an equal club record.

7-James Maloney 

75 games (2010-12), 24 tries, 222 goals, seven field goals

The playmaker may have achieved more elsewhere, but he made his name as a Warrior, joining as virtual unknown from the Melbourne Storm.

In just his third game, he scored an equal club-record 28 points and became a pointscoring machine, guiding the Warriors to the 2011 Grand Final.

8-Sam Rapira 

173 games (2006-15), 14 tries

A hard-working front-rower who was always a consistent performer upfront for the Warriors, until his departure at the end of 2015. 

9-Nathan Fien 

105 matches (2005-09), 17 tries

Another great utility player, who was a big loss when he left in 2009.

Often played halfback/hooker during his time and was quick around the ruck. A year after leaving the Warriors, he played a big role in the St George Illawarra Dragons' title run 

10-Jerry Seuseu

132 games (1997-2004), 10 tries 

The big prop was voted the Warriors’ Player of the Year in 2001, the year the club made a historic playoffs debut.

Jerry Seuseu in action for Warriors
Jerry Seuseu in action for Warriors. Photo credit: Photosport

He was also a member of the Grand Final team the following year, where he became the club's stalwart. 

11-Awen Guttenbeil

170 matches (1996-06), 15 tries 

A great player who had all the goods, but tough to name him ahead of 'Mannering the Magnificent' and 'Big Ali' in the top side.

Considered moving him onto the bench in place of Kevin Campion, whom he played alongside in the 2002 Grand Final. Was strong on both sides of the ball.

12-Stephen Kearney 

79 matches (1995-98), 11 tries 

A true professional of the NZ game and a member of the inaugural side, winning Player of the Year in 1996.

After three seasons in New Zealand, he moved to Melbourne, but has found himself back in Auckland, as current coach of the Warriors. 

13-Sione Faumuina

88 games (2002-06), 18 tries, 33 goals

A talented back-rower, but often found himself out in the centres or playing in the halves.

Was a key member of the Warriors' 2003 squad that went within one game of the Grand Final, but openly struggled with off-field issues. 

14-Brent Webb

103 games (2002-06), 39 tries, 27 goals 

Webb cemented a first-grade place after Cleary's retirement, and became an instant fan favourite with his speed and strength on the attack.

Brent Webb scores a try for the Warriors
Brent Webb scores a try for the Warriors. Photo credit: Photosport

He was named the Supporters' Player of the Year in 2003 and 2004. 

15-Wairangi Koopu

159 games (1999-2008), 34 tries

Another versatile member of the Warriors 2002 Grand Final team.

Was very consistent during his time at the club, with the ability to play several positions. 

16-Joe Vagana 

115 (1995-2000), nine tries 

At his peak, Vagana was one of rugby league's most destructive runners and wasn't afraid to hit the line.

His form saw him named Warriors Player of the Year in 1998. He was the cousin of Nigel Vagana, who also features in the Warriors Second XVII, and was the unlucky 'fifth substitute' in 1995, when the Auckland side were docked two points for fielding too many players. 

17-Logan Swann 

195 games (1997-2003, 2007-08), 36 tries, one goal 

Another consistent performer, who had two great spells at the club and played a vital part of the Warriors’ run to the 2002 Grand Final from the interchange bench.

Has been involved in five of the club's 10 trips to the playoffs. 

Coach: Daniel Anderson 

Won 52, lost 39, drew two

Guided the Warriors into the playoffs for the first time in 2001 and then to the Grand Final the following year.

Still regarded as a top coach.


The Unlucky Five 

Wade McKinnon

54 matches (2007-10), 17 tries

His 2007 season was magical, but suffered a serious knee injury during following pre-season, allowing Hohaia to stamp his mark on the fullback jersey.

He was never was the same player after that injury, but had some special moments 

Dean Bell

29 games (1995), three tries 

The club's first captain is very unlucky not to feature in the first or second XVIIs, but just one season at the club was his downfall. 

Thomas Leuluai

85 games (2003-04, 2013-16), 12 tries 

When he made his debut, Leuluai was the youngest ever to play for the club.

Enjoyed two consistent stints at the club, but was more known for his achievements with the Wigan Warriors.

Thomas Leuluai in action for the Warriors
Thomas Leuluai in action for the Warriors.

Would often be the only Super League player picked for Kiwis international sides. 

Greg Alexander 

37 games (1995-96), 11 tries, eight goals  

Similar to Bell, where his time at the club was short.

Alexander alternated between five-eighth and fullback during his time in Auckland, and replaced Bell as captain in 1996. Showed glimpses of his best at the Warriors, but not consistently. 

Mark Tookey

67 games (2000-04) nine tries 

The Australian prop was a cult hero and another member of the 2002 Grand Final squad.

Was known for his hard running and his goatee. The forward was best known as an impact player off the bench and was the Warriors' first Australian international rep.

Ben Francis is a Newshub online sports producer