Stories from Locker Room: Under-achieving NZ Warriors should have won NRL Premierships - Sione Faumuina

Former NZ Warriors star Sione Faumuina believes the club under-achieved during a golden era that should have produced NRL premierships during the 2000s. 

Faumuina played 88 games for the Warriors from 2002-06 and was part of the 2002 Grand Final squad, following that up with a 15-win season that fell one match short of the same feat.

During his tenure at Mt Smart, he played alongside Stacey Jones, Clinton Toopi, Ali Lauiti'iti and PJ Marsh, under the watchful coaching eye of Daniel Anderson.

Yet despite being one of the most talented squads ever assembled and playing a brand of rugby league that thrilled NRL fans on both sides of the Tasman, those Warriors failed to win a single title.

Faumuina, 39, tells Newshub's Stories from the Locker Room podcast that side was good enough to achieve considerably more success.

"I believe we did [underachieve]," Faumuina says. "The amount of talent and that squad we had - under Daniel Anderson - we should have won multiple NRL Premierships.

"Speaking with some of the boys like Clinton Toopi, I know it still haunts him.

"The mix of players we had... we were so talented and for sure we should have won at least one."

As a talented, young player, Faumuina admits his only focus was to have fun with his mates. Winning wasn't a priority and he believes that mindset may have prevailed among his teammates. 

"A lot of Polynesian players play their best footy when they are having fun in an environment we feel comfortable in.

"The reason I had such a good year in 2003 was because I really enjoyed football - I loved the thought of playing every weekend. 

"When I look back at that time, it wasn't on my radar to win an NRL Premiership. The only thing I cared about was to play every week and have fun on the park.

"I think, had I had a different mindset, it could have made a difference.

"We lacked that one percent - that mental edge to push through and win the games that mattered most. 

"Daniel [Anderson] had the right ingredients and the perfect gameplan to suit us, we just needed that little bit of hard-edge mindset to get over the line."

The ball-playing forward left the club in 2006 under a cloud of controversy, after being sacked by coach Ivan Cleary and chief executive Wayne Scurrah.

Faumuina was involved in several off-field incidents throughout the season, which came to a head with an alcohol-induced verbal tirade after a game against Sydney Roosters. 

The Aucklander admits to being inexplicably inebriated that day and has no excuse for his behaviour.

"I was sacked due to an alcohol-fueled incident - that is 100 percent correct," he says. "I was being hammered in the media - and especially on a fan website run by a fan who I knew - for some off-field issues.

"I turned up to the game under the influence and approached that fan to confront him. Bear in mind, this is the same guy that, every single home game, would ask me for an autograph or a photo.

"So I gave him a gobful and cussed him out several times, and then went downstairs to the changing room and did the same thing to Ivan.

"The next day, I got called into the club and was sacked."

But he reveals the story behind the weeks leading up to his unceremonious departure. 

"2006, it just wasn't the same - there wasn't the same buzz or feeling at the club.

"Nearly all of the boys I had played with through 2003 had moved on, Daniel was sacked in 2004 and I got to the point where I believed it was time for me to leave. I asked for a release several times and didn't get it.

"I wasn't seeing eye-to-eye with Ivan Cleary - that happens at every club between players and coaches - and that is the reason I wanted to leave. 

"I had a great deal from Manly on the table and they still wouldn't let me go. The club said they wanted to sit down with me and negotiate a new contract, and keep me there long term, but I just wasn't enjoying my footy, so I asked for another release - I didn't get it. 

"I'm sharing that because everyone only sees what is reported and no-one has ever asked me what led to that.

"I'm not making excuses for my behaviour, because it was unacceptable, but there is always a backstory that a lot of athletes can't share until after they retire.".

"I was unhappy at the club for not allowing me to take the deal at Manly and I was almost in a self-destruct mode."

Listen to the full interview above