3 Oct 2011

Fans out in force to welcome home Warriors

6:56 pm on 3 October 2011

Fans were out in force to welcome home the Warriors after their National Rugby League grand final loss at the weekend.

The New Zealand side lost 24-10 to the Manly Sea Eagles in Sydney on Sunday night. It was the second time they had reached the final.

About 100 people gathered at Auckland airport chanting and screaming as the team walked through the gates to the sound of drumming on Monday afternoon.

The team signed autographs and posed for photos with fans before leaving on a team bus with their families.

Coach proud of team

Departing Warriors coach Ivan Cleary says he is proud of the team's performance despite the result.

With 17 minutes to go, the Sea Eagles looked safe on an 18-2 lead. However, led by Shaun Johnson, the Warriors launched a spirited fightback, only for Manly to seal the contest with a try late in the game to secure their eighth NRL title.

Cleary refused to blame some dubious refereeing decisions that went against his side in the first half for the defeat.

''I am so proud of this team,'' he said after the match. "We couldn't have prepared any better, but I got this feeling it was just Manly's night, but good luck to them.''

Cleary joins Penrith next season after five years as head coach. He previously served the Warriors as a player and was in the 2002 NRL final.

Former Kiwis coach Brian McLennan will take charge of the Warriors next season.