Retiring Warriors cult hero Ali Lauitiiti has given a glowing review of the club following his final season in Auckland, which ends his 19-year professional career.
The 37-year-old forward returned to Mt Smart Stadium at the beginning of the season after 12 years in the Super League, coming home to the club where he debut and starred between 1998 and 2003.
Despite the NRL side failing to make the finals for the fifth-straight year, following a late-season collapse which saw them lose their last four games, Lauitiiti said the professionalism and standards at the club are as good as he has seen around the world.
“It’s a shame they missed out on the eight, but that’s football, I definitely know they work hard week in and week out, I see all the hard work they put in and it’s just a case of stuff not coming off,” Lauitiiti said.
“I know in the next few years there will be some special stuff coming out of this group.
“I have enjoyed being back and seeing the professionalism at the club, not only with the players but also with the staff and the way they run the club.
“(Managing director) Jim [Doyle] has done a really good job, but also the coaching led by ‘Cappy’ (head coach Andrew McFadden) and all the staff and the trainers; it’s first class.”
Lauitiiti didn’t manage to make an NRL appearance in 2016, with niggling injuries and a wealth of back-row depth at the Warriors being the main reasons why.
But his impact on the club’s reserve-grade team was telling according to several insiders at the Warriors, who said the former Kiwi and Samoa international had helped not only the club’s young forwards to develop, but also their halves with tips and advice around structures and technique.
Despite the Warriors continuing to fight through the Intrust Super Premiership finals, injury means Lauitiiti won’t play any further role, but he said there were no regrets about the decision to play one more year.
“I have definitely enjoyed it, it was good to be back and given the privilege to come back and put on a jersey again,” he said.
“I am very thankful for the club for giving me the opportunity.
“It’s always good to run out here, it’s a good stadium and the support and atmosphere are great.
“It has been an honour to play here again.”
Post-footy Lauitiiti will remain in Auckland, the city where he was born and bred, while he is on the verge of securing future employment in a role he is passionate about.
“Nothing has been cemented yet, there are a few things in the pipeline with youth work and looking after kids, we will see how it goes,” he said.
“I will probably help out with grassroots league a bit still, but it won’t be professional work.
“I am just looking forward to a bit more family time and hopefully my wife can do what she wants to a bit more.”
— Joyce Putohe (@JoycePutohe) August 30, 2016