Warriors Chairman Rob Croot answers questions about the NZWarriors purchase by Autex

Autex is no stranger to winning business formula. With over 50 years in the manufacturing sector, the Rosebank based company has a long history of innovation. Its ability to adapt at speed and keep ahead of the ball has been key to the company’s success.
In September this year, Autex became 100% owners of the Vodafone Warriors. The RBA spoke with Managing Director, Rob Croot, about what this means to both him and the team at Autex.

When did Autex first become involved with the Warriors? How has this relationship changed over the years?
Autex’s passion and support for rugby league started in the late 1970s as we became the first major sponsor of the Kiwis.
In early 2018, Auckland Rugby League and Carlaw Heritage Trust approached us to consider a joint-venture buy-out of the Warriors from owner Eric Watson – we jumped at the chance.
While the underlying belief that brought CHT and Autex together still stands – to support and develop Rugby League in NZ, with the Warriors becoming a premiership-winning club – our vision to achieve this wasn’t aligned. Autex wanted to spend money and invest in the club; CHT needed to balance their books and financial responsibility to Auckland Rugby League. As a result, we concluded negotiations to buy out CHT and took full ownership in September 2019.

Where did your passion for league come from?
My passion has grown with my involvement in the club. I’ve not been a big sporting person – more of an armchair sports fan!
The ownership and my direct involvement in the club have changed my life. I used to be able to watch a game and enjoy it for what it is. Now, I’m on the edge of my seat at Mt Smart for every play. While the wins are incredibly sweet, the losses are very painful for all involved.

Autex seems committed to supporting the grassroots game – how will this be strengthened moving forward?
Our first focus is the Warriors. We’re doing this because we believe we can be the difference. We’re prepared to put in hard work and resources to make the club great; however, we know we can’t be consistently strong if we don’t have a solid grassroots game with pathways for developing the very best.
It’s been long criticised that too much of our young talent was heading to Australia. Aussie clubs have targeted players as young as 14 in NZ. Unfortunately, this won’t stop, but we need to keep the best here. We need an attractive NRL club the best players want to be part of. It’s important we show these young men and women they can develop and fulfil their potential at the Warriors.

Do you see any changes happening at the club due to your new ownership, be it strategic or otherwise?
Change is our normal at Autex, so you can fully expect that to become the standard at the Warriors too. This doesn’t mean throwing out the old and marching in the new – it’s more a philosophy to constantly push forward and try new things.

Do you see synergies between a successful business and a successful rugby league team?
You must adapt and challenge – that’s what Autex is great at. After 50 years of manufacturing, we’re still growing. While footy is footy and business is business there are many crossovers. The fundamentals of striving for success are similar.
One of the greatest differences between business and footy is the speed at which things can change. Business change tends to be quite slow, planned and methodical. Footy success can change by the second. Game momentum can be changed through one play – sometimes it’s enough to win or lose.

The Warriors visited Autex – how did the Autex team enjoy this?
Our Autex team loved the opportunity to show some of the Warriors what we do. We’re incredibly proud of Autex – it was cool to blow their socks off!

Why did you want to show the Warriors the operations of Autex?
There’s a lot we can learn from each other and in many ways, show support. We are a family business and we see all Autex people as our ‘family’. The Warriors are part of this now, too.
There’s a great feeling around the club as we prepare for the 2020 season. Grab your season memberships and come support us!