Manu Vatuvei of the New Zealand Warriors grimaces in pain as he is taken off the field injured during their Round 2 NRL game against the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Friday, March 11, 2016.
Manu Vatuvei of the New Zealand Warriors grimaces in pain as he is taken off the field injured during their Round 2 NRL game against the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Friday, March 11, 2016. AAP Image - Dan Peled

Rugby League: Fury spreads after big night out

ONE of the toughest players to wear the Warriors' jersey has slammed players caught up in the faltering club's latest off-field howler, calling on six players suspended for breaching team protocol to apologise to their teammates and fuming fans.

Veteran players Manu Vatuvei, Ben Matulino and Bodene Thompson have all been axed, as have Sam Lisone, Albert Vete and Konrad Hurrell.

It is understood the group were out in downtown Auckland until the early hours of Wednesday morning after their embarrassing 42-0 loss to the Storm on Anzac Day. The night included poker and ended at a Viaduct bar about 3am.

A number of the players then turned up late to a team meeting that day and, as a result, an investigation was held and another meeting took place on Thursday to discuss the situation.

A furious Tony Tuimavave - a foundation Warrior known as 'The Chief' due to his on-field toughness - told the Weekend Herald he was gutted at the group's antics.

He backed their demotion and said they now owed an apology to their teammates and their long-suffering supporters.

"I don't know what these guys are thinking. It is not good to hear about what has happened to the club. They need to apologise to the public, the rugby league community that supports them ... and go out and get a winning performance."

Tuimavave was a Warrior between 1995-2000. He faced several tough periods after heavy losses, especially in his final two years at the club.

"But when we lost, we didn't go out to drink, not the way that these guys did. You watched the video of the match to see what happened and addressed the issues. If this is the kind of respect for the coaches and the result [members of the current team have], then the results will speak for themselves.

"I played for my mates, my mates wearing the jersey next to me and the fans ... the fans are the ones that make us."

Gutted at the fortunes of his former club, the tough-tackling Tuimavave said he will approach Warriors coach Andrew McFadden to offer his services to the coaching team. He said he believed McFadden was struggling to connect with his players and feared he has "probably lost control".

He also said it seemed there was something wrong with the culture at the club. "There is no defence whatsoever, or guys who are willing to put their bodies on the line."

Meanwhile, fans have continued to blast the team and individual players for their performance over the long weekend and the decision to stay out late the following night.

Hundreds of fed-up fans took to the players on the Warriors' official Facebook page, some calling for the group to be sacked, others said they were a "disgrace" to the jersey, while many backed club management for the sanctions handed down.

Fans also criticised club legend Vatuvei on his Instagram page.

Vatuvei responded to those negative comments, telling people to "keep your comments to yourself".

"Thanks for your comments. Do you know the full story? No. And would you like to [swap] positions and see how you deal with things? I'll be more than happy to.

"I'll do anything for the club, that's why I'm there - so next time, keep your comments to yourself, thanks," he wrote.

Hurrell has also come under fire for reposting a tweet made by another user criticising McFadden.

He later deleted the post.

Veteran Warriors supporter Sir Peter Leitch was among those to come out in support of McFadden's decision. The Mad Butcher said he had no sympathy for the players who were demoted to reserve grade ahead of tomorrow's game against St George Illawarra.

"That's professional football. But I'm a die-hard fan, through good times and the bad times. I accept [the decision]. I go with the coach."

Former player and coach Mark Graham also backed McFadden's decision, saying players needed to stick to the rules.

Graham, now based in Australia, said when he was a player there was sometimes pressure for players to be a part of the team at all times - including going out together.

He said he remained a keen follower of the team and is now keen to see what the plan is for the next match. "As a fan, I'm thinking: 'Who are they gonna put in'?"

Career options

  • Flipping burgers at Wendy's
  • Clowns at Rainbow's End
  • Adult film stars
  • Bartenders or cabbies given they like a late night
  • Stop-go sign holders - based on waving opponents through their defence
  • Bagging manure at Eric Watson's stud farm

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