Prop Suaia Matagi is never likely to forget The Capital Clash after being handed his NRL debut in the Vodafone Warriors historic ninth-round encounter with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Wellingtons Westpac Stadium tonight (7.35 kick-off; match day sponsor: Vodafone). Photo: Photosport.


Head coach Matthew Elliott has called him in to become Vodafone Warrior No 181, replacing veteran Sam Rapira in the Vodafone Warriors first home match ever played outside Auckland.


Rapira was originally named to play but hes still troubled by the hand injury which kept him off the field after his 24-minute opening stint against Gold Coast last Sunday.


Matagi earns his call-up after impressing coaching staff throughout the offseason, in the preseason trials and especially with his form for the Auckland Vulcans in the New South Wales Cup.


Given an offseason trial, he excelled earning a fulltime, one-year contract with the NRL squad just before the NRL season started.


A Te Atatu junior, Matagi later switched to Mount Albert and had an exceptional year at all levels in 2012, earning the accolade as the New Zealand Rugby Leagues domestic player of the year.


Hes named on the bench, resulting in Wellingtons own Ben Matulino going into the starting line-up on a night when hell play in front of a big group of family and friends. His propping partner in the opening stanza will be Russell Packer from the lower North Island town of Foxton. He too will have plenty of hometown support in the crowd.


Theres also a change to the centres in the starting line-up. After being included in the original line-up, Konrad Hurrell comes out of the side with Carlos Tuimavave - used five times in the NRL last year brought in for his first appearance of the year.


Tonights match has special significance for three members of the Vodafone Warriors coaching staff. Elliott was at the helm when Canberra beat the Vodafone Warriors in a one-off home game for the Raiders at Westpac Stadium in 2003. Canberra won 18-10 that night with Ruben Wiki scoring the match-sealing try. Hes now the Vodafone Warriors strength and conditioning coach while another member of Canberras staff in the 2003 win was Carl Jennings, the Vodafone Warriors head strength and conditioning coach.


VODAFONE WARRIORS v CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS


Westpac Stadium, Wellington

7.35pm, Saturday, May 11

Referees: Adam Devcich and Chris James


VODAFONE WARRIORS


1GLEN FISIIAHI

2BILL TUPOU

3BEN HENRY

18CARLOS TUIMAVAVE

5MANU VATUVEI

6THOMAS LEULUAI

7SHAUN JOHNSON

14BEN MATULINO

9NATHAN FRIEND

10RUSSELL PACKER

11FELETI MATEO

12SIMON MANNERING (c)

13TODD LOWRIE

Interchange:

15JACOB LILLYMAN

16ELIJAH TAYLOR

17PITA GODINET

21SUAIA MATAGI


HEAD COACH: MATTHEW ELLIOTT