The Warriors restart their 26th season in the NRL tomorrow as they embark on one of their toughest challenges since their inaugural 1995 campaign - having to play the rest of their season on the road. Chris Rattue looks back and ranks their previous 25 seasons.
25) 1996 - Back to earth with a thud
The Mt Smart crowds were still strong although - tellingly - well down on the stunning turnouts in season one.
But a sense of doom had suddenly enveloped the club.
The joys of season one had masked the realities of the Super League war which involved rival media organisations engaging in a vicious and deceit-filled battle for control of the game.
The war had split the Warriors. Coach John Monie and top players aligned with the breakaway Super League in a clandestine operation which created a bitter spat with the Warriors founding chairman Peter McLeod in particular.
There were lots of bad and sadly accurate omens.
There was every reason to revel in the achievements of 1995, but a serious re-boot was needed in year two.
Unfortunately, the rot set in and has never truly gone away. It makes 1996 the disaster of all disasters.
24) 1997 - Scene setter
What a mess.
Big-spending showman Ian Robson was replaced by football identity Bill MacGowan as CEO. This led to coach John Monie being chopped, with Frank Endacott promoted.
Results in the breakaway Super League were horrible - 11 losses from 18. League was in flames, but that was no excuse for the dud performances.
These early years were so pivotal, their effects longstanding. That's why they deserve to be ranked so low.
23) 2019 – Forgettable
People are losing interest – and that's the greatest crime of all in sport.
22) 2016 – Come again?
Club legend Ali Lauitiiti, who had left in very unfortunate circumstances in 2003, was re-signed at the tender age of 36 after a 300 game career in England.
"I'll have some catching up to do," Lauitiiti reckoned.
Absolutely no one could work out what it was all about. He didn't play a game. This summed up the wacky world of the Warriors.
21) 2015 – Sorry Simon
The Warriors went on a mind-blowing mid-season three-game winning streak, twice. This was followed, of course, by the traditional collapse. This time it was a doozy – eight in a row, including consecutive 50-16 losses to the Cowboys and Tigers, a team who were even worse than the Warriors in 2015. People started feeling really sorry for Simon Mannering, the lion-hearted captain who could no longer hold this mad mob together.
20) 2014 - Normal service
The redoubtable Mannering reached 100 games as captain. Mathew Elliott was replaced by Andrew McFadden as coach. The Warriors were pipped for a place in the top eight.
19) 2013 - Just weird
Nail biters, massive losses - don't mention the Panthers - and crushing victories over Canberra and Brisbane.
Once again, a great player got away. Sio Siua Taukeiaho escaped, to become one of the best props in the NRL with the Roosters.
Matthew Elliott's brief reign as coach was also remembered for all the gizmos the players got to use, like an oxygen chamber and really big gloves.
18) 2012 - Divided we fall
New coach Brian McClennan couldn't win over some senior players, most notably James Maloney who quickly cut his ties despite staying for the season.
John Hart also quit the club over the departure of his protégé Ivan Cleary, the squad was trimmed, disaster loomed.
It was all over rover in one of the great falls in NRL history, the 2011 grand finalists only just avoiding the wooden spoon.
It was also like real professional sport though. Aucklander "Bluey" McClennan was sacked during the season, replaced by assistant Tony Iro in a caretaker role.
What is this? Football?
17) 2009 - Tragedy
Stacey Jones, at the age of 32, made a comeback which started very well, but faded.
Sonny Fai, one of the club's finest ever prospects, died in a Bethells Beach swimming accident while trying to rescue family members from a rip.
RIP Sonny Fai. It still feels very sad, writing about it all these years later. And that, unfortunately, is what 2009 will be remembered for.
16) 1998 - The template
Lose six of the first eight, win five of the next eight, and lose six of the last eight. These Warriors set the scene for life in the NRL. The game had come together after the Super League war, but the Warriors kept falling apart.
15) 2000 – huh?
The coach was Mark Graham. The captain was John Simon. Lee "Ordinary" Oudenryn played his 50th match. True story. (Okay, it's a bit unfair to pick on Aussie speedster Oudenryn but New Zealand should produce its own rugby league wings)
14) 1999 - Lots of serious fiddling, same old Titanic
New owners (Tainui with Graham Lowe), coach (Mark Graham) and lots of other stuff ... too much to mention. They did win their first game of the season though, which - in hindsight - was pretty unusual. Bottom line: Even Lowie had run out of his magic dust.
13) 2003 – Eye off the ball
On the surface, everything was swimming along nicely, with a third consecutive finals appearance.
Francis Meli scored a record five tries as they beat the Bulldogs in a playoff game, leading Stacey Jones to reckon: "He was like Superman out there."
But trouble was brewing. Contrary to appearances, this was among the club's most disappointing seasons, because the apparent success of 2002 was not being built on.
The way the NRL works for most clubs, it's about making the most of the good times. Squandering them is the cardinal sin.
Unfortunately CEO Mick Watson's mind was racing in a lot of directions, hardly any of them good.
12) 2007 – Cowboys
While coach Ivan Cleary was warming to his task, guiding the Warriors to fourth, the North Queensland Cowboys were busy signing a 14-year-old Aucklander named Jason Taumalolo who they had spotted in a visiting junior team.
Missing out on Taumalolo was almost as bad as failing to sign SBW. It makes 2007 a disaster.
The Warriors, as it happened, were also beaten up by North Queensland in the finals, the Cowboys team including a former Warrior named Sione Faumuina.
Talent didn't come much bigger than Faumuina, and nor did the troubles which led to his 2006 sacking from the Auckland club. He later revealed battles with depression and alcoholism.
The name Faumuina is a reminder of the club's major millstone – an inability to identify, secure and/or fully realise the potential of the most extreme talent this country produces. In a quarter century, Stacey Jones remains the only genuine exception to the rule.
11) 2006 – Joining the big boys
There have been so many salary cap breaches over the years, involving every NRL club, that the minor ones didn't even seem like cheating.
But the Warriors were determined to join the big boys of salary cap rorting.
The club went over the $3.7m cap by about $1m in 2005, when departed CEO Mick Watson was in charge. They were heavily fined and lost four competition points. Their excuses or explanations were famously feeble.
Mick Watson even wondered if it might be a "technical dispute".
But the club did still get to keep Steve Price and Ruben Wiki, whose signatures had led to the breach. Bulldog "metre eater" Price – who was not overly popular among teammates – became the face of the Warriors, saving them through troubled times. The revered Wiki remains to this day, as a trainer.
10) 2005 - Salute to a champion
The 2005 season will always mean one thing to diehard Warriors fans – the end of the Stacey Jones era. There will never be a Warrior more revered than Jones.
He was only 28 when the confirmation came. It was all so confusing. The little fella just wasn't happy and – with you guessed it – CEO Mick Watson was heavily involved as Jones set sail for France.
It wasn't supposed to end this way, but Jones' place in the national sporting heart is secure. He was an absolute superstar, and at his peak as good as it gets to watch.
Talking about Stacey is also a great way to avoid talking about the win-loss record that year. The word gloomy springs to mind.
9) 2017 – RTS leads from behind
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will, by career end, be regarded by many people as the club's finest player. His recruitment from the Roosters, before the 2016 season, was a miracle.
Chief executive Jim Doyle sold RTS the Warriors on the idea that he would be part of a league revolution in New Zealand.
His first season was wrecked by a knee injury, but in 2017 the workaholic fullback with the amazing feet wowed everybody.
New coach Stephen Kearney made the young fullback captain, and RTS led by example, the pity being that not many followed. They outdid themselves, managing a nine-game losing streak to end the year.
But at a club that is a bit of a laughing stock in some quarters, RTS has become one of the country's most respected sportspeople, which takes some doing. At the other end of the scale, Doyle's courting of troubled Kiwi star Kieran Foran was, well, weird. That's the Warriors.
8) 2011 - United we fall
There is no harder year to judge than this.
As it turned out, a triumvirate of football director John Hart, the great rugby identity, and coaches Ivan Cleary and John Ackland had turned the club around.
Unfortunately, this new reality surfaced too late, after a 50/50 record over the first 16 rounds.
The charge towards a second grand final appearance, where they lost to the Sea Eagles, involved a tangled web which saw coach Cleary leave the club prematurely, and a disastrous domino effect ensued. The alienation of James Maloney which occurred in 2011 is probably the single greatest disaster to befall this club.
If only a time machine could take us back to mid-2011, and so many things would be different now.
Still, the year left plenty of great memories, including a unique partnership between Maloney and Feleti Mateo, with the big forward putting the little man into gaps.
7) 2001 – Small mercies
Finals footy, at last. Hallelujah.
Eric Watson took over as the owner, and there was a major cleanout in high places. Their sudden-death clash against the Eels was just that however.
6) 2004 - Taking the Mick
It's all about Mick, as in Warriors CEO Mick Watson. That's what we found out in 2004.
The year started with some of the world's top rugby officials, from the north, strutting around Mt Smart, doing deals. Mick was getting the Warriors into rugby. He'd also shown the much loved Ali Lauitiiti the door. Grand final coach Daniel Anderson also disappeared, amid utter confusion. Things were getting very screwy. The exact timeline is murky – but Mick was also thinking about boxing.
Somehow, in an absolute disaster of a year, Mick managed to sign Steve Price and Ruben Wiki. We later found out how – by bypassing the salary cap.
This is widely and understandably regarded as the Warriors' worst year, because the team finished equal last with the Rabbitohs.
But I disagree. Signing Steve Price, in retrospect, made this a bizarre triumph.
5) 2002 – There's this kid called Sonny Bill Williams
It all came together, almost, in one glorious season.
Are you sitting – the Warriors actually won the minor premiership. Most importantly, they were led by a locally produced and much-loved superstar in Stacey Jones, who also scored a wonder try in the grand final loss to the Roosters.
The team returned from a preliminary final win over the Sharks to be treated like conquering heroes. While this was unwise triumphalism, you had to be there. As momentum built during 2002, league was experiencing sustained joy in an unprecedented way.
But while 2002 is remembered in glowing terms, it has to be marked down for one serious reason. While the Warriors were zooming towards a first grand final appearance, the Bulldogs were busy signing a young Auckland teen named Sonny Bill Williams.
Missing out on SBW remains the biggest blunder in the history of anything (okay, what's wrong with a bit of hyperbole now and then). It makes 2002 a disaster of sorts.
4) 2010 - Momentum
Good things were brewing, with the arrival of James Maloney a massive factor. Maloney might be the best player the club has ever had. His influence was enormous, both good and bad as it turned out.
Last year, I organised a poll of leading league lights to judge the top 25 Warriors. It was staggering to see Maloney struggle for a vote.
He was an Aussie, he didn't last long, and it ended badly. But he achieved a lot in a very short space of time.
A 14-win, 10-loss record in 2010 was respectable, although they didn't go deep into the finals.
But in hindsight, the things being put in place in 2010 contained the vital ingredients so sadly missing in much of the Warriors' history.
3) 2018 – Finally, a trophy
Okay, so it was "only" the Dally M Trophy. But that counts when you are the Warriors. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's triumph in the NRL player of the year awards doesn't get enough limelight. The greatest names in Aussie league history are on that trophy.
The Warriors started 2018 with a roar, winning their first five games. True story. It made for a year in which they were always in the hunt. Another true story.
This was always a castle built on sand, as we found out in the opening playoff match in which the eighth-placed Warriors failed to turn up against the Panthers. But it was an interesting year.
And the rise of RTS to become one of this country's most revered sportspeople is not something to be sneezed at, not for a club like the Warriors.
The club also showed it could still own the headlines, as the brilliant, erratic and polarising halfback Shaun Johnson quit or was forced out, depending on your point of view, in another confusing shambles.
On the incredibly humorous side, the Auckland Rugby League paid a fortune to buy the club from Eric Watson, having given it away almost two decades earlier.
2) 2008 – Michael Witt (less)
The Warriors are nothing if not bizarre. And nothing sums this up better than Michael Witt's last-gasp try, to beat minor premiers Melbourne in their opening finals match of 2008.
The image of Witt raising the ball above his head – tempting disaster in way that would have ruined his life – is indelible. He only just got the ball to ground, as Cameron Smith lunged.
It still causes the heart to palpitate, over a decade later.
Witt immediately claimed he had been trying to "wind the clock down".
"I can't believe anybody would be doing what Michael Witt did," screamed commentator Ray Warren.
"Is (coach) Ivan Cleary still breathing?"
"No, no, no, no, no" yelled Phil Gould, although to be fair Phil Gould often yells this.
It was a truly brilliant try, to overturn a one-point deficit, with Jerome Ropati and the magnificent Manu Vatuvei playing the major roles, and Witt running a superb support line in the Melbourne humdinger.
It would have been one of the great rugby league tries anyway. Witt put it in the pantheon.
"I don't know what he was thinking," said captain Steve Price. "He came up with some stupid excuse but he certainly won't do that again."
"I panicked a little bit," said Cleary, a man who most of us had assumed didn't have a heartbeat.
This moment of pure and priceless sporting theatre, the honesty of Price, the thought of Ivan Cleary panicking, the idea that Cameron Smith might come up short with something, makes 2008 my second favourite season.
There was nothing new in the Warriors dicing with disaster. The club is based on the principle. But for once, they got away with it.
1) 1995 - Blast off
Some remember it for the dramatic opening night.
Real Warriors aficionados though will recall 1995 for halftime match show which involved blowing up a car - not the most sensible thing when you've got a football field to look after.
Only at the Warriors.
Fair to say that the Auckland Rugby League probably didn't quite know what they were getting when they hired long tall Ian Robson as the Warriors chief executive.
But the country was kept on the edge of its seat by Dean Bell, Stacey Jones, cult hero Hitro Okesene, Phil Blake, glamour All Blacks signing John Kirwan and co. Crowds flocked to Mt Smart, and there was drama and controversy aplenty.
So, they didn't make the finals and there were problems brewing. But when it's this much fun, who cares?
Nothing will ever match the golden glow of that year.