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For most of this season, the only time that Ian Henderson has been listed ahead of Aaron Heremaia is in the NRL's alphabetical media guide.

But there has been little between them for the Warriors. Heremaia has carried a stellar pre-season into similar form in the competition. It has seen him play all 20 matches for the Warriors, injury-free. Eighteen of those have been as the starting hooker.

His season included a call up to the Kiwis, which, at 27, he had considered a distant dream.

In contrast, Henderson missed the first five fixtures with a knee injury. He was the 2009 incumbent, starting 18 times to Heremaia's five. Henderson's competitive nature brought him back into the starting line-up last week, although he did start at hooker against the Raiders in round eight and (at lock) against the Tigers in round 12.

Heremaia's game is one of attack around the ruck; he's an explosive runner with an elusive sidestep who also has a decent kicking game, if he needs it. Henderson is seen as more aggressive; a bigger talker who likes to get in the opposition's face and keep busy by tackling.

The consequence of their friendly rivalry has been a better contribution to the team. Certainly they are competitive, but that has helped bring the Warriors closer to the play-offs, sitting just inside the top eight at the start of round 23.

Coach Ivan Cleary says the pair have enhanced his game plan: "They both had exceptional off seasons as two of our best trainers. Unfortunately Ian got injured towards the end of the trials which gave Aaron a leg-up and his confidence grew.

"Since then we've used both. Hendo has also been useful as a loose forward or playing out on an edge [of the ground].

"We're just blessed they're both competitive. Both bring different skills sets. Ian is 'in your face' and never leaves you alone. He loves the tough close-quarter stuff. Aaron's probably got more speed; he's dangerous darting off his left foot and useful with the boot.

"You could use both for the whole game but we're getting the best out of the current arrangement."

Few NRL teams other than Cronulla (John Morris and Paul Aiton) use a two-hooker dynamic in the same way. Most prefer to play one hooker for over an hour of each game whereas the Warriors quite often split the shift into 40 or 50 minutes via interchange.

Heremaia is happy with that: "The team gets a quality 80 minutes with me and Hendo sharing the role. It's working, even if we'd both rather play more. It's hard because sometimes you're just getting into the game and are then forced to come off. Still, I didn't think I'd be playing every game this season and it has become the norm ... so I've adapted."

Heremaia cites last week as an example: "I like to run the ball from dummy-half so we switched roles. I came off the bench running at tired defenders while Hendo was more energetic and up-tempo on defence early."

Henderson says competition. breeds a healthy team environment.

"I was happy with the way I came back from injury but I couldn't snag a starting spot so had to be content with coming off the bench. I like to be involved in everything whereas Aaron observes a bit more; he waits for his opportunity then seizes it.

Heremaia says they get along well but push each other all the time.

" At 27, we're mature enough to recognise that. In fact if we're not on the field battling it out, we bring out the cards to play euchre or chalk up our pool cues.

"Just quietly," Heremaia leans forward. "Me and young Billy [Tupou] won the pool competition this week."

This is where the rivalry takes hold. Henderson claims he was robbed because they were guaranteed a three-game preliminary round on the green baize, but only got one (which he lost).

Like any group of elite athletes, the desire to play hard and win is never far away.

"The whole squad constantly compete when we go into that team room - be it cards, pool or anything we can bet on.

"We generally spend about half an hour in there every day, often pottering around over lunch in between weight or training sessions.

Henderson jokes that There are always blow-ups. "But I have to give Aaron credit for that pool comp win."

Heremaia also deserves credit for helping Henderson to lift his game and get his name back on the team sheet first - for now.