For the second year running the Warriors will today begin an NRL off-season campaign with a new look, even more so this time ahead of the club's 19th season in the competition.
Appropriately, given the annual significance of the date, it's anticipated this one will also have an explosive edge about it as the Warriors seek to redress disappointments of the season just past.
They'll head into day one of their pre-Christmas training block looking new in so many key areas.
Most obviously they have a new face in charge as head coach in Matthew Elliott, a new assistant in Ricky Henry, just confirmed yesterday, and another new assistant yet to be named.
The playing roster has been enhanced with the acquisition of four players, three from other NRL clubs and one from the English Super League; Melbourne's premiership-winning Dane Nielsen and Todd Lowrie are joined by Auckland-born Gold Coast outside back Dominique Peyroux and Wigan halfback Thomas Leuluai, a 2003-2004 Warrior and vastly-experienced Kiwi international who's back home after eight years in the Super League.
Four other new faces will also feature when the players gather today to begin what is certain to be a gruelling off-season. This quartet is on a trial with the prospect of following the likes of Aaron Heremaia and Pita Godinet who have been rewarded in the past with NRL contracts after initially being given trials.
Among the group are props Charlie Gubb and Nathaniel Peteru. Wellingtonian Gubb (22) has been with the premiership-winning Wynnum Manly Seagulls in the Queensland Cup the last two seasons after sharing in the Junior Warriors' first NYC premiership in 2010; Gubb also played for the Queensland Residents this year. Peteru (20) played for the Junior Warriors in each of the last two seasons.
Also on trial will be another prop Suaia Matagi (Mount Albert) and centre-winger Atelea Nafetalia (Otahuhu). Both played for the Vulcans in the New South Wales Cup this year and they also starred for the New Zealand Residents in their victory over New Zealand Maori eight days ago, Nafetalai scoring two tries and Matagi being named man of the match; Matagi was in the Akarana side which won the NZRL's national competition grand final this year.
As well as the coaching staff and the playing roster, the training staff also features new faces in a department which has been boosted to five, led by Carl Jennings as head strength and conditioning coach, who has joined the club from a rugby union experience with the Crusaders this year.
Steeped in rugby league after stints with Bradford, Canberra and Penrith, he has the legendary Ruben Wiki as his strength and conditioning coach and Brad Morris, a man with a mixed martial arts background, as sports science manager and also wrestling coach. Long-serving Dayne Norton is a constant, now filling the role of rehab and speed coach, while Adam Sadler is on board as performance analyst.
The bulk of the 2013 squad will begin training today but a few will be exempt. Nielsen and Lowrie, both in Auckland briefly this week, will have more time off until the middle of the month as will Simon Mannering, Eliljah Taylor and Shaun Johnson, who were in the Kiwi squad for last month's Test against Australia; Ben Matulino was also in that team but he begins his off-season campaign today.
For the pre-Christmas period, the Warriors will be based at the Millennium Institute of Sport and Health while also using North Harbour Stadium for field sessions.
Elliott, the club's eighth official head coach, will meet the players as a group for the first time this morning on what will be a full day including a track session, recovery, a strength workout and a pool session. A packed programme throughout the rest of the week is capped by a return to Bethells Beach for a beach session on Saturday morning. In past seasons the
Warriors regularly trained on the notorious sand hills at the West Coast beach but this will be the first time they have been there since promising young star Sonny Fai disappeared at the beach on January 4, 2009 while trying to rescue his brother and four cousins who had got into difficulty in the surf.
The squad numbers 29 as off-season training starts but the club has indicated it will use a bigger group this year to provide more depth and competition. Last year the squad side was around 30.
Of the 29 players plus the four on trial, 19 are NYC graduates.
Three NRL trials have been confirmed for the Warriors at Pizzey Park in Burleigh (February 9), Waikato Stadium in Hamilton (February 16) and Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin (February 23). The trial against Brisbane on February 23 will be the first time NRL football has been played in Dunedin while the Hamilton trial, the only one in the North Island, will be the first there since 2009.
The 2013 NRL squad so far is: Glen Fisiiahi, Nathan Friend, Pita Godinet, Ben Henry, Konrad Hurrell, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai, Jacob Lillyman, Kevin Locke, Samiuela Lousi, Sione Lousi, Todd Lowrie, Simon Mannering, Alehana Mara, Feleti Mateo, Ben Matulino, Dane Nielsen, Russell Packer, John Palavi, Dominique Peyroux, Sam Rapira, Steve Rapira, Jerome Ropati, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Elijah Taylor, Carlos Tuimavave, Bill Tupou, Manu Vatuvei.
On trial: Charlie Gubb, Suaia Matangi, Atelea Nafetalai, Nathaniel Peteru.
Warriors - 2013 NRL Trials
Saturday, February 9 v Gold Coast at Pizzey Park, Burleigh
Saturday, February 16 v Penrith at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Saturday, February 23 v Brisbane at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin