Back in March 1995, a mock war game at Mt Smart Stadium heralded the Warriors’ entry into the NRL.
The action that followed the pre-match entertainment also contained plenty of fireworks as the new boys came close to knocking over heavyweights Brisbane.
Since then, it’s been a roller-coaster ride for Warriors fans, who are still waiting for a first premiership as the club marks its 20th anniversary.
The Warriors have twice made the grand final, but since the last time in 2011, after a maiden appearance in 2002, they’ve failed to return to the play-offs.
They missed eighth place on percentages last year, after a final round loss to Penrith.
Coach Andrew McFadden says the Warriors are aiming high in 2015, but he hasn’t set a bar because the competition is so tight.
“I’m confident we will improve and if we improve that should be enough to make the eight. But every team is improving,” he said.
“It’s a highly competitive environment and there’s not a lot of difference between making the eight and missing these days.”
McFadden is beginning his first full season as an NRL coach, having stepped up from assistant after round five last year when Matthew Elliott departed.
He is happy with some quality signings and was delighted with the fitness of players when they turned up for pre-season training.
The Warriors have retained a strong core to their squad, led by mercurial halfback Shaun Johnson, backing up from his Four Nations title heroics for the Kiwis and winning the Golden Boot award as the world’s best player.
The group includes skipper Simon Mannering, England fullback Sam Tomkins, winger Manu Vatuvei and props Jacob Lillyman and Ben Matulino.
The Warriors also have some highly-rated youngsters knocking on the door, such as backs Ken Maumalo, Solomone Kata and Tuimoala Lolohea, and prop Sam Lisone.
Their acquisitions have included former Wests Tigers backrower Bodene Thompson, who had a late call-up to the Kiwis’ Four Nations squad and centres Matt Allwood (Canberra) and Jonathan Wright (Cronulla).
But their biggest addition is second-rower Ryan Hoffman, who brings with him Kangaroos, New South Wales Origin and Melbourne premiership credentials.
“He’s a very experienced player and a quality player, but his value is also that he’s been successful – he knows what success looks like,” McFadden said.
“He knows it from a player’s perspective, but also as a senior player and a leader.So he brings all that knowledge and awareness to the environment and he’s certainly added a lot.”
The Warriors open their campaign away to Newcastle and Canberra before their first home fixture against Parramatta on March 21.
One feature of their program is they have ditched Eden Park as a home venue and will play all their Auckland matches at their traditional Mt Smart base.
Finishes over the past three seasons: 2014 – 9th, 2013 – 11th, 2012 – 14th
Coach: Andrew McFadden
Captain: Simon Mannering
Gains: Matt Allwood (Canberra), Ryan Hoffman (Melbourne), Api Pewhairangi (Parramatta), Bodene Thompson (Wests Tigers), Jonathan Wright (Cronulla).
Losses: Jayson Bukuya (Cronulla), Kevin Locke (Salford), Feleti Mateo (Manly), Sam Lousi (Waratahs), Dane Nielsen (St George Illawarra), Jerome Ropati (retired), Carlos Tuimavave (Newcastle).
Strength: Competition in several positions, especially the back row where a number of players will be pushing to join skipper Simon Mannering and new recruit Ryan Hoffman.
Weakness: The centres still look to be an issue, and the season will begin with Konrad Hurrell coming back from a wrist problem and Jonathan Wright completing a suspension incurred with Cronulla last year.
Money Man: Golden Boot winner Shaun Johnson. Is poised to become one of the game’s elite players. Just needs to produce his best more consistently.
One to watch: Sam Tomkins, who started to find his feet after his first taste of the NRL coincided with the Warriors’ mis-firing start to last year.
Best team: Sam Tomkins, David Fusitua, Konrad Hurrell, Ngani Laumape, Manu Vatuvei, Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino, Simon Mannering (capt), Ryan Hoffman, Ben Henry. Interchange: Sam Rapira, Suaia Matagi, Bodene Thompson, Thomas Leuluai.
Predicted finish: 14th