NRL: NZ Warriors winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak issues friendly warning to Melbourne Storm enforcer Nelson Asofa-Solomona

NZ Warriors winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak admits he missed the worst of his team's Anzac Day massacre against Melbourne Storm 12 months ago.

The former NZ Kiwis captain had scored his team's opening try and the contest was still close just after halftime, when he chased a freak bomb from Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona near the Warriors goal-line.

Watene-Zelezniak collided with one of his own teammates and then Asofa-Solomona's knee as he fell, knocked out cold. Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen pounced on the loose ball to begin an avalanche of points, while the Warriors veteran was carted off the field, leaving a reshuffled backline ripe for the plunder.

The Auckland side surrendered 54 unanswered points during the second half, en route to a club-record defeat.

"I remember it being 16-10," chuckles Watene-Zelezniak now. "I remember the atmosphere was good.

"It was a really good game to be a part of. It was a special occasion, not only for us as players...

"We get to go out to battle, but we get to go home afterwards. The reason we can do that is what people did before us and now we have this beautiful country that we live in."

Watene-Zelezniak, 27, did eventually return home, but missed the following game - a miraculous extra-time bounceback win over Canberra Raiders - as he recovered from his concussion.

As he prepares for the Melbourne rematch, he's issued a friendly warning to Asofa-Solomona, his international teammate.

"Can't wait, big Nels," he insists. "Don't run to the right wing, brother."

After the Raiders win, those Warriors went on a seven-game losing streak and won just two more games through the rest of the season, as they finished just one spot off the bottom of the NRL table.

Despite missing the opening six rounds of the new season, Watene-Zelezniak insists these Warriors are a completely different proposition, as evidenced by their 5-2 record and unexpected place among the competition frontrunners under new coach Andrew Webster.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in action against North Queensland Cowboys
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in action against North Queensland Cowboys. Photo credit: Photosport

After an intense pre-season build-up, the winger tweaked a calf in warm-ups for the opening game against Newcastle Knights, replaced by Ed Kosi, who has become an automatic selection, even after Watene-Zeleniak's return.

If the veteran can't remember last year's Anzac calamity, Kosi probably wishes that was the case, after he turned in a dire performance that gifted the Storm several tries and left him mentally scarred for several weeks after. He was the only player dropped to reserve grade the following week, but would score a try double against Canterbury Bulldogs later in the season.

Watene-Zelezniak returned to the line-up against North Queensland last week, but displaced centre Viliami Vailea, with Marcelo Montoya moving infield from his wing spot.

"I think that's what will make us continue to do well into the year - that competition for spots," he says. "It puts everyone on notice.

"It put me on notice that the next person stepping in is doing his job, so you have to get your rehab right and make sure you're doing your bit.

"It's a credit to Marce and Kos, they're good players. Kos is doing so well for us and I'm proud of him - he makes me a better player by making sure I'm always on and doing my best."

Melbourne Storm have dominated this Anzac rivalry in recent seasons, but will enter this year's edition trailing the Warriors on the competition table, after losing key players in the off-season and beginning their campaign uncharacteristically slowly.

"I don't really look at past results," says Watene-Zelezniak. "We're a different team, different pre-season, different combinations.... everything is different this year.

"One thing that won't change is how good a team they are, so we have to be on our best game. Melbourne's been up there quite a few years... as a benchmark, so we'll have to do our homework, and see what Webby and the coaches have for our gameplan this week.

"We'll definitely be giving it a good crack." 

Join Newshub at 9pm Tuesday for live updates of the Warriors v Storm Anzac Day clash or catch live coverage on Three