DUAL WINNERS | For the second time in three seasons there's been a tie for the #DallyM Medal!
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Three preseason trial matches have been confirmed by the Vodafone Warriors as they prepare to start their off-season programme for the 2006 NRL season. Among the opponents are this year?s beaten grand finalists the North Queensland Cowboys and 2004 premiers the Bulldogs. New head coach Ivan Cleary is delighted with a schedule that also includes Canberra. ?It?s an ideal programme to prepare us for the new season,? says Cleary. The schedule begins with the Vodafone Warriors playing the Raiders at North Harbour Stadium on February 12 followed by clashes against the Cowboys in Cairns on February 18 and the Bulldogs in Carrara on February 25. Cleary begins work in his new role next Tuesday morning when the Vodafone Warriors assemble at Ericsson Stadium for the first of two pre-Christmas training blocks. The initial training squad will be missing eight players all on international duty in the Tri Nations series. Ruben Wiki, Brent Webb, Manu Vatuvei, Clinton Toopi, Lance Hohaia, Awen Guttenbeil and Louis Anderson are with the Kiwis while Steve Price is in the Australian squad. Among those in the group starting work next week will be two of the new signings former Cowboys back rower Micheal Luck and his old team-mate hooker George Gatis. Ex-Roosters halfback Grant Rovelli is due to start training on October 31. Cleary promises the training schedule will be similar to what the Vodafone Warriors endured last summer. ?We?ll do a combination of in-house training and sessions at other venues around Auckland,? he says. ?The programme will be challenging but that?s standard for all NRL clubs today. It?s what you have to do to measure up in this competition.? Returning from neck surgery will be centre Tony Martin. His season was restricted to only two matches after he injured his neck against Brisbane in March. Apart from Martin, Luck, Gatis and Rovelli, others involved in the off-season campaign are Todd Byrne, Jerome Ropati, Simon Mannering, Sione Faumuina, Nathan Fien, Richard Villasanti, Evarn Tuimavave, Epalahame Lauaki, Wairangi Koopu, George Tuakura and Misi Taulapapa. Also named in the pre-Christmas training squad are 11 of the club?s promising players ? Daniel O?Regan, Patrick Ah Van, Andreas Bauer, Sonny Fai, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Marvin Filipo, Cooper Vuna, Roman Hifo, Robinson Godfrey, Sam Rapira and Daniel Vasau. The Vodafone Warriors will complete their first block of training on November 18 before resuming on November 25 and running through until December 22. The eight players on international duty won?t be required to train with the squad before Christmas. They?ll assemble with the rest of the players to start the preseason run on January 6.