Ali Lauitiiti is hoping for a fairy-tale finish to his career when he re-joins the Warriors next season after 12 seasons in the UK Super League.

The fan favourite is coming home to New Zealand after signing a one-year second-tier contract to return to the club where his top-level career began 17 years ago.

Lauitiiti is bringing his family back to Auckland after eight seasons with the Leeds Rhinos and another four with the Wakefield Wildcats in the English competition.

The former 19-test New Zealand forward told the Herald of his desire to return to the Warriors after making a farewell appearance for Leeds in the Kiwis' tour opener late last month, following a testimonial season at Wakefield.

Warriors recruitment and development manager Tony Iro today confirmed the 36-year-old back-rower has been secured on a lower second-tier contract, not as a top 25 player.


"For Ali this is a chance to come back to where it all began," said Iro.

"With his depth of experience he has so much to offer us as a leader and mentor both on and off the field.

"In realigning our squad our goal was to retain and recruit quality players while also ensuring we had a strong blend of experience throughout the wider group.

"While Ali is 36 now we saw he still has his range of skills when he played for Leeds against the Kiwis a few weeks ago."

The man once dubbed the 'Michael Jordan of rugby league' is excited about the prospect of returning to Mt Smart Stadium after leaving the club in 2004.

The Auckland-born Mangere East Hawks junior burst on to the NRL scene possessing an unrivalled ball-playing ability that contributed heavily to the Warriors renowned free-wheeling style of play.

"As a family we're excited about heading home after being away so long," he said from Leeds.

"For me it couldn't be better being given this chance to come back to the Warriors. I left a long time ago but the club has always been really special to me.


"While I've kept training I'll have some catching up to do once I join the boys for training but I want to do all I can to help the coaching staff, the team and the club in any way I can."

Warriors coach Andrew McFadden welcomed the prospect of having one of the club's most popular players back in the fold.

"Ali has been an unbelievable player over so many years, which I saw first-hand while I was still playing," said McFadden.

"Having more experience in our group is so important as we prepare for 2016 and beyond. A player like Ali will add so much with his knowledge and his leadership."

Lauitiiti made a try-scoring NRL debut as an 18-year-old against North Sydney in 1998.

He went on to play 115 games - scoring 33 tries - before signing for Leeds in 2004.


He quickly achieved legendary status with the Rhinos where he was a winner five times in six Super League grand finals and also helped Leeds to two World Club Challenge victories in 2005 and 2008.

Lauitiiti has scored more than 100 tries in 400-plus games for the Warriors, Leeds and Wakefield.

He's expected to arrive home in the next few weeks.