League: Once were Warriors

Ivan Cleary is the sixth Warriors coach - and soon there will be a seventh. Ben Guild looks back over the efforts of the men who have guided New Zealand's professional rugby league franchise.


 

John Monie. Photo by NZ Herald.
John Monie. Photo by NZ Herald.
1. John Monie

Reign: 1995-96.
Record: 26 wins, 26 losses.
The story: Super-coach Monie arrived for the Auckland Warriors' inaugural season from Wigan talking a big game with high-profile imports Dennis Betts, Phil Blake and Greg Alexander in tow.

He returned to Wigan two years later after narrowly missing the playoffs in each of his two seasons with the club.

The team would have made the finals in its first attempt but for an illegal number of interchanges made during a third round 46-12 hiding of the Magpies at Ericsson Stadium.

Monie also had the dubious honour of presiding over former All Blacks Mark Carter and Marc Ellis in his final year.

2. Frank Endacott

Reign: 1997-1998.
Record: 13 wins, 20 losses.
The story: Endacott took over the reins from Monie who was fired midway through the first Super League season.

He was sacked himself, along with chief executive Bill MacGowan, the following year, as Graham Lowe and Malcolm Boyle combined with Tainui to buy the club.

Perhaps best remembered for resurrecting an age-group coaching strategy of selecting his son without any justification.

3. Mark Graham

Reign: 1999-2000.
Record: 18 wins, two draws, 30 losses.
The story: The former Kiwis captain was named in 2006 as the best player to come out of this country, and was widely feared even before he crushed Wally Lewis' oesophagus in a test at Lang Park in 1980.

The Warriors beat the Roosters in Graham's first game in charge, but major upheaval behind the scenes threatened to destroy the club while he was at the helm.

Boyle and Lowe were forced out by Tainui in 2000, the team conceded more than 50 points against the Raiders, Dragons and Storm, and numerous players were left unpaid as Graham quit.

4. Daniel Anderson

Reign: 2001-2004.
Record: 51 wins, two draws, 39 losses.
The story: Anderson was plucked from relative obscurity to replace Graham as Eric Watson purchased the club and cleaned house.

Outgoing boss Trevor McKewen was replaced by Mick Watson and the playing roster was boosted by the addition of Kevin Campion, whose face was constructed almost entirely of stitches. He led the Warriors to the playoffs for the first time in 2001 where they were destroyed 56-12 by the highly fancied Eels.

Anderson won the Dally M coach of the year award in 2002, Ali Lauitiiti was named the Dally M second-rower the same year, and the Warriors, led by Stacey Jones, were competitive against the Roosters in the grand final until a Brad Fittler 40/20 opened the floodgates late in the 30-8 defeat.

The club returned to the playoffs under Anderson the following year and destroyed the Bulldogs 48-22 in Sydney to a soundtrack of Ray Warren's exclamations: "Meli's got five! Meli's got five!"

A 28-20 loss in the preliminary final to Penrith represented another successful season for the club, which showed no signs of the depths to which it would plunge in Anderson's truncated final year.

He quit midway through the 2004 season with a 3-8 record after Lauititi had effectively been shown the door for admitting his family and faith were more important to him than rugby league.

5. Tony Kemp

Reign: 2004-2005.
Record: 13 wins, 24 losses.
The story: Kemp won his first game in charge against the Raiders, but generally failed to impress during his time in the role.

The greatest advance made during his stint happened off the field as the Warriors secured the signatures of Ruben Wiki and Steven Price.

6. Ivan Cleary

Reign: 2006-2011.
Record: 65 wins, three draws, 65 losses.
The story: Cleary was promoted to the top job after working as an assistant since 2004. But the club was found guilty of serious breaches of the salary cap and docked four competition points before his first game in charge.

The Warriors missed the finals as a consequence, but the departing Cleary has led the side back to the finals in each year since - apart from a 2009 season marked by the tragic drowning of the promising Sonny Fai.