1996 New Zealand rugby league season

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The 1996 New Zealand rugby league season was the 89th season of rugby league that had been played in New Zealand. The main feature of the year was the final season of the Lion Red Cup competition that was run by the New Zealand Rugby League. The Counties Manukau Heroes won the Cup by defeating the Waitakere City Raiders 34–22 in the Grand Final. With the outbreak of the Super League war the New Zealand Rugby League sided with the Super League organisation.

International competitions[edit]

The New Zealand Kiwis hosted both Papua New Guinea and Great Britain in 1996, winning all five matches. New Zealand were coached by Frank Endacott and included; Richie Barnett, Richard Blackmore, Marc Ellis, Syd Eru, Sean Hoppe, Mark Horo, Tony Iro, Stacey Jones, Stephen Kearney, Gene Ngamu, Quentin Pongia, captain Matthew Ridge, Tyran Smith, Logan and Anthony Swann, John Timu, Joe Vagana, Ruben Wiki and Grant Young. Marc Ellis became the countries 36th dual-code rugby international.[1]

PNG toured first and were defeated 62-8 in Rotorua and 64-0 in Manawatu. They also lost tour matches to the Lion Red Cup XIII, 22-24, and New Zealand Māori side, 14-40.[2] Great Britain then arrived for a three match series. They were defeated 17-12 at Ericsson Stadium, 18-15 in Manawatu and 32-12 at Lancaster Park in Christchurch.[3] Great Britain drew with the Lion Red Cup XIII but lost to the New Zealand XIII and the New Zealand Māori sides.[2]

The Lion Red Cup XIII also played both sides and embarrassed the Great Britain Lions when they held them to a 22-all draw at Carlaw Park.[4] The team was coached by Graeme Norton and included Boycie Nelson, Tama Hohaia, Marlon Gardiner, Richard Stewart, David Bailey, captain Tukere Barlow, Ben Lythe, Don Stewart, Leamy Tato, Anthony Edwards, Gareth Adams, Jonathan Hughes, Corrie Jamieson, Cheaf Lee Fakavamoeanga, Vilai Kelemete, Vai Afoa and Gus Malietoa-Brown.[5] Another New Zealand combination containing Warriors reserves players then managed to defeat Great Britain 30-22 at Fraser Park. The team was: David Murray, Iva Ropati, Anthony Swann, Whetu Taewa, Richard Stewart; Shane Endacott, Aaron Whittaker, Brady Malam, Denvour Johnston, Hitro Okesene, Tony Tatupu, Bryan Henare, Logan Swann. Subs: Meti Noovao, Mark Faumuina, Jerry Seuseu, Darryn Avery.[6] Tukere Barlow captained the Lion Red Cup XIII against Papua New Guinea.

The New Zealand Māori rugby league team was involved in the 1996 Pacific Challenge, a replacement for the postponed Oceania Cup. New Zealand Māori won both their matches, defeating Tonga 28-18 and Western Samoa 39-16. The Māori side included Frank Watene, Paul Rauhihi and Matthew Sturm. Doc Murray, Whetu Taewa, Gavin Hill, Sonny Whakarau, and Tawera Nikau were all added to the squad for the match against Papua New Guinea, which the Māori won 40-14.[7] The Māori team then finished an undefeated season by upsetting Great Britain 40-28.[8] The New Zealand Māori side was: Doc Murray; John Farrar, Ricky Henry, Whetu Taewa, Jason Walker; Jamie Stevens, Paul Howell; Paul Rauhihi, Tukere Barlow, Gavin Hill, David Pearce, Matthew Sturm, Tawera Nikau (capt). Substitutes: Neville Ramsay, Marlon Gardiner, George Milner, Sonny Whakarau.[9] Coach: Cameron Bell.

Graeme Norton coached the New Zealand Nines team that competed in the Super League Nines tournament in Fiji. The side won the title, New Zealand's first world trophy.[10] The squad consisted of captain Sean Hoppe, John Kirwan, Stephen Kearney, Nigel Vagana, Gene Ngamu, Tony Tatupu, Gavin Hill, Mark Carter, Stacey Jones, Tony Iro, Richie Barnett, Henry Paul, Ruben Wiki and Latham Tawhai.[11]

The New Zealand University side competed in the Student World Cup and finished third behind Samoa and Australia.[2]

The Junior Kiwis played five matches as curtain raisers to the five test matches. They won all five matches.[12] Coached by Lex Clarke and managed by Ross Taylor, the Junior Kiwis included Joe Galuvao, Lesley Vainikolo, David Kidwell, Hare Te Rangi, Robert Henare, Frank Watene, Matthew Rua, Monty Betham, Kylie Leuluai and Phillip Leuluai.[13]

A New Zealand under-18 team coached by Trevor McLeod bet Fiji under 18s in a two match series. The squad included Joe Galuvao, Lesley Vainikolo, captain David Solomona, Odell Manuel and Kyle Leuluai.[12]

A New Zealand under-16 team played a three match series in Australia, winning all three. The team was coached by Jeff Whittaker and included David Vaealiki, Mark Leafa, Wairangi Koopu and David Fa'alogo.[12]

Matthew Ridge won the New Zealand Rugby League's player of the year award.[14]

National competitions[edit]

Inter Zone Challenge[edit]

A North Zone, representing the Waitakere City, Counties Makukau, North Harbour, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty franchises played a three match series against South Zone, representing the Taranaki Rockets, Manawatu Mustangs, Hawkes Bay Unicorns, Hutt Valley Dolphins, Wellington City Dukes, Christchurch City Shiners and the Canterbury Country Cardinals.[12]

North Zone won the three matches 22-16, 21-14 and 38-16.[15]

North Zone were coached by Brian McClennan and included Willie McLean, Brian Jellick, Boycie Nelson, Ben Lythe, captain Clayton Friend, Jerry Seuseu, Stuart Lester, Matthew Sturm and Frank Watene.[13]

South Zone were coached by Andy Moore and included Earl Va'a, Blair Harding, Denvour Johnston and Yogi Rogers.

Rugby League Cup[edit]

Auckland defeated the West Coast 48-10 in a Rugby League Cup challenge to retain the cup. Auckland included Esau Mann, Stuart Lester and Matthew Sturm.

Auckland defeated Canterbury 24-20 at Carlaw Park to retain the Rugby League Cup.[16] Auckland were coached by Dominic Clark and included Ben Lythe, Boycie Nelson, Duane Mann, Donald Stewart, Matthew Sturm, Willie McLean and Frank Watene.[13] Canterbury included Blair Harding, Mark Nixon and Paul Koloi.

Lion Red Cup[edit]

Due to the postponement of Super League in Australia several top Australian referees were available to referee matches in the Lion Red Cup. These included Steve Clark.[17]



Team Pld W D L PF PA PD Pts
Waitakere City 22 19 0 3 697 342 355 38
Counties Manukau 22 18 0 4 766 399 367 36
North Harbour 22 15 0 7 624 393 231 30
Waikato 22 13 1 8 515 472 43 27
Bay of Plenty 22 11 3 8 440 441 -1 25
Hutt Valley 22 11 2 9 444 469 -25 24
Taranaki 22 11 0 11 516 438 33 22
Wellington City 22 9 0 13 536 532 4 18
Hawkes Bay 22 7 1 14 377 583 -206 15
Canterbury 22 6 1 15 365 555 -190 13
Manawatu 22 5 0 17 404 732 -328 10
Christchurch City 22 3 0 19 360 643 -283 6

The Playoffs[edit]

Two time defending champions the North Harbour Sea Eagles were eliminated in the second round when they lost 14-20 to Waikato, despite the Cougars having twelve men for most of the second half.[28]

  Qualifying finals Semi finals Preliminary final Grand Final
1 Waitakere City 26  
    Counties Manukau 8         Waitakere City 22
2 Counties Manukau 14     Counties Manukau 22   Counties Manukau 34
3 North Harbour 10       Waikato 6  
North Harbour 14
4 Waikato 35   Waikato 20  
5 Bay of Plenty 18
Match Winner Loser Venue
Elimination Play-off Waikato Cougars 35 Bay of Plenty Stags 18 Rotorua International Stadium
Preliminary Semifinal Counties Manukau Heroes 14 North Harbour Sea Eagles 10 Carlaw Park
Elimination Semifinal Waikato Cougars 20 North Harbour Sea Eagles 14 Davies Park
Qualification Semifinal Waitakere City Raiders 26 Counties Manukau Heroes 8 Carlaw Park
Preliminary Final Counties Manukau Heroes 22 Waikato Cougars 6 Carlaw Park
Grand Final[edit]
Waitakere City Position Counties Manukau
Willie McLean FB Te Manawa Loza
Brian Jellick WG Charlie Kennedy
Boycie Nelson CE Cheaf Lee Fakavamoenga
David Bailey CE Richard O'Connell
Robert Ofanoa WG Gus Malietoa-Brown
Dean Broomfield (C) FE Duane Mann (C)
Ben Lythe HB Duane Mackwood
Carl Findlay PR Malu Autagavia
Junior Fiu HK Esau Mann
Greg Ashby PR Frank Watene
Gareth Adams SR Jerry Seuseu
Anthony Edwards SR Steve Ekepati
Jonathan Hughes LK Matthew Sturm
Alan Li'o Bench Neville Ramsay
George Milner Bench Francis Leota
Graham Fafuiti Bench Mark Lethbridge
Wayne Kohlhase Bench Ray Barchard
Del Hughes Coach Cameron Bell

The Grand Final was played in front of a disappointing crowd of just under 2,000 fans at Carlaw Park.[29] Jim Stokes refereed the match which Waitakere City led 16-8 at halftime. However Counties Manukau came back to win 34-22 and claim their first Lion Red Cup.

Team Halftime Total
Counties Manukau Heroes 6 34
Waitakere City Raiders 18 22
Tries (Counties Manukau) 2: G Malietoa-Brown
1: D. Mann, E. Mann, N. Ramsay, F. Watene, C. Kennedy
Tries (Waitakere City) 3. B. Nelson
1: D. Bailey
Goals (Counties Manukau) 3: T. Loza
Goals (Waitakere City) 3: B. Lythe
Venue Carlaw Park


  • Player of the Year: Jerry Seuseu (Counties Manukau)
  • Coach of the Year: Cameron Bell (Counties Manukau)
  • Rookie of the Year: Darryl Fisher (Waikato)
  • Captain of the Year: Mark Woods (Bay of Plenty)
  • Best and Fairest: Paul Howell (Wellington City)
  • Most Tries: Cheaf Lee Fakavamoenga (21 – Counties Manukau)
  • Most Goals: Ben Lythe (109 – Waitakere City)
  • Most Points: Ben Lythe (240 – Waitakere City)
  • Referee of the Year: Jim Stokes (Canterbury)

Inter-Club Knockout Series[edit]

Cobden-Kohinoor defeated the Kaikohe Lions 40-22 in the Inter-club knockout series. The series was for provinces which did not have a team in the Lion Red Cup.

Round of 16 Quarter Finals Semi Finals Grand Final
Cobden-Kohinoor (W.Coast) 44
Whakatu (Nelson-M) 16
Cobden-Kohinoor 11
Waro-rakau 10
Waro-rakau (W.Coast) 82
Tahunanui (Nelson-M) 0
Cobden-Kohinoor 33
He Tauaa 12
Pacific Raiders (Otago) 34
Whakatipu (Sthland) 6
Pacific Raiders 18
He Tauaa 36
He Tauaa (Sthland)
St Kilda (Otago) Default
Cobden-Kohinoor 40
Kaikohe Lions 22
Kaikohe Lions (Nthland) 40
Mt Maunganui (Coastline) 30
Kaikohe Lions 26
Te Paamu 24
Te Paamu (Coastline) 28
Whangatautia (Nthland) 26
Kaikohe Lions 60
Turanga 22
Turanga (Gisborne-EC) 38
Takahiwai (Nthland) 36
Turanga 48
Hokianga Pioneers 36
Hokianga Pioneers (Nthland) 54
Paikea (Gisborne-EC) 24

Australian competitions[edit]

The Auckland Warriors competed in the Australian Rugby League competition finishing 11th out of 20 teams.

The Reserve Grade team made the grand final, losing to the Cronulla Sharks reserve team 14-12.

Club competitions[edit]


The Otara Scorpions won the Auckland Rugby League Fox Memorial for the first time. They defeated Otahuhu 36-28 after the match went into triple extra time.[30] Otahuhu were the minor premiers and also won the Stormont Shield. The Manurewa Marlins won the pre-season Roope Rooster tournament.

The Glenora Bears won the second division Sharman Cup.

Peter Feau (Otahuhu) won the Lipscombe Cup as Sportsman of the Year, Matthew Sturm won the Rothville Trophy as Player of the Year, Milton Ross (Ellerslie) won the Burt Humphries Trophy as the Most Improved Forward while Lionel Periera (Manurewa) was the Most Improved Back. Ronald Kite (Otara) won the John Hyland Memorial Cup as coach of the year.

Otahuhu included Francis Leota, Phillip Leuluai and Odell Manuel.


The Randwick Kingfishers won the Wellington Rugby League's Appleton Shield, defeating Paremata 38-8 in the Grand Final.[31]

Zane Clarke played for Randwick.


Hornby won the Canterbury Rugby League's Pat Smith Trophy, defeating Halswell 22-16 in the Grand Final.[31]

The Thacker Shield was not contested due to Waro-rakau having other commitments.

Halswell's Darryn Avery won the Outstanding Player of the Year award. Tony Sweetman (Linwood) won sportsman of the year. Shane Beyers (Halswell) and Don Aitken (Hornby) shared the Junior Sportsman of the Year award.

Wayne Wallace coached Hornby who included Mark Nixon.[13]

Other Competitions[edit]

The Bay of Islands defeated Whangarei 28-24 in an inter-district match.[12] The Kaikohe Lions beat the Hokianga Pioneers 22-21 after extra time in the Bay of Islands competition while the Whangatauatia Mountain Men beat the Pawarenga Broncos 24-12 in the Far North competition and the Takahiwai Warriors beat the Otaika Eagles 12-4 at Jubilee Park in the Whangarei premiership.

Turangawaewae won the Waikato Rugby League grand final.[32] Taniwharau were the minor premiers in all four grades.[33] The Waitara Bears defeated Western Suburbs 29-16 in the Taranaki Rugby League grand final.[34]

The Putaruru United beat Pikiao 35-8 in the Rotorua Midlands final while Kaiti beat Turanga 36-12 in the Gisbourne-East Coast Premiership.[12] The Turanga Panthers won the Gisborne-East Coast title. Taradale defeated Tamatea 32-0 in the Hawke's Bay Rugby League championship. Otaki Whiti Te Ra defeated Kia Ora 27-20 in the Manawatu Rugby League Final.

Waru-rakau retained the West Coast Rugby League title, defeating Marist in the Grand Final. Marist included Wayne Dwyer. Otago did not play a representative fixture during the season for the first time in over 80 years. The Otago competition featured four teams. The Gore Cup, a fixture between the champion Otago and Canterbury clubs, was contested for the first time since 1929. Eastern Suburbs defeated South Pacific 44-32. He Tauaa won the Southland Rugby League Grand Final, defeating the Wakitipu Cougars 22-18. The Cougars had played in the Otago competition in 1995.[13]


  1. ^ Lion Red Rugby League Annual '96, New Zealand Rugby Football League, 1996. p.51
  2. ^ a b c International Competition 1996 The Vault
  3. ^ New Zealand rugbyleagueproject.org
  4. ^ Part-time Kiwis embarrass substandard Lions The Independent, 11 October 1996
  5. ^ Potent centres will test PNG Sunday Star-Times, 29 September 1996
  6. ^ 1996 Tour Match: New Zealand Select XIII 30 Great Britain 22 Cherry and White
  7. ^ John Coffey, Bernie Wood (2008). 100 years: Māori rugby league, 1908-2008. Huia Publishers. p. 292. ISBN 9781869693312. 
  8. ^ GB have Long to thank BBC Sport, 5 November 1999
  9. ^ Morley given immediate chance to atone The Independent, 21 October 1996
  10. ^ Lion Red Rugby League Annual '96, New Zealand Rugby Football League, 1996. p.48
  11. ^ Manly key to Ridge in the Super League nines Sunday Star-Times, 21 January 1996
  12. ^ a b c d e f g New Zealand Competitions 1996 The Vault
  13. ^ a b c d e f Lion Red Rugby League Annual '96, New Zealand Rugby Football League, 1996.
  14. ^ Ridge wins player of the year award Sunday Star-Times, 1 December 1996
  15. ^ New Zealand Inter Zone Challenge 1996 The Vault
  16. ^ Coffey, John and Bernie Wood Auckland, 100 years of rugby league, 1909-2009, 2009. ISBN 978-1-86969-366-4.
  17. ^ Championship matches enjoy top referees Waikato Times, 15 May 1996
  18. ^ a b c Rockets shoot down North Harbour Sunday Star-Times, 10 March 1996
  19. ^ Waitakere still in own league Sunday Star-Times, 17 March 1996
  20. ^ Four-try burst helps Counties move up ladder Sunday Star-Times, 21 July 1996
  21. ^ Last game at Park Waikato Times, 22 June 1996
  22. ^ Transformed Stags come to the party Sunday Star-Times, 26 May 1996
  23. ^ Gordon confident inquiry into Stags' finances will clear him Sunday Star-Times, 8 September 1996
  24. ^ Gordon cleared after fraud investigation Sunday Star-Times, 1 December 1996
  25. ^ Cougars show teeth after tame start Waikato Times, 26 August 1996
  26. ^ Rockets trio off to try their luck in France Daily News, 20 August 1996
  27. ^ Dolphins sink Harbour Sunday Star-Times, 11 August 1996
  28. ^ Cougars gain most important victory Sunday Star-Times, 1 September 1996
  29. ^ Lion Red Rugby League Annual '96, New Zealand Rugby Football League, 1996. p.65
  30. ^ Coffey, John and Bernie Wood Auckland, 100 years of rugby league, 1909-2009, 2009. ISBN 978-1-86969-366-4, p.315.
  31. ^ a b New Zealand Competitions The Vault
  32. ^ Muru, Patterson play crucial roles in grand final triumph Waikato Times, 23 September 1996
  33. ^ Taniwharau top all tables Waikato Times, 17 August 1996
  34. ^ Taranaki Grand Final Countdown Archived 15 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. rleague.com, 11 July 2003