A clutch of players are closing in on career milestones as an unchanged Vodafone Warriors line-up prepares for Sundays challenging 22nd-round NRL clash against Manly at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford (2.00pm kick-off local time; 4.00pm NZT).
Props Sam Rapira and Jacob Lillyman plus captain Simon Mannering will move another step towards landmarks after head coach Matthew Elliott today named the same combination for the third week running.
Coming off a second consecutive match without any injuries, Elliott has stuck with the 17 players used against Melbourne and again in Saturday nights disappointing 14-18 loss to Cronulla.
We didnt have the performance we expected of ourselves against the Sharks, said Elliott.
We were all disappointed with various aspects of our display. That said, we were still able to put ourselves in a position to win it. We know what we need to do and we also know well need to be immeasurably better, right up to our best, to be able to compete with Manly.
The trip to Gosford, a venue the Vodafone Warriors have played at only once before, will see Rapira register his 147th NRL appearance since his debut in 2006. It means hell stay on track to reach his 150th milestone game when the Vodafone Warriors play their last home game of the regular season against Canberra on Saturday, August 31. It coincides with the clubs now traditional old boys day.
Rapiras front row partner Lillyman brings up his 96th game for the club on Sunday, leaving him set to reach the 100-game mark in the last regular season outing against St George Illawarra in Wollongong. Having brought up his 150th career appearance earlier in the campaign, Lillyman would be the only player this season to reach 100 games for the Vodafone Warriors.
Mannering will be playing his 184th game this weekend, leaving him just one short of joining Lance Hohaia in third spot on the clubs all-time list (ahead of them are Logan Swann on 195 and Stacey Jones on 261).
Four players Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai, Feleti Mateo and Ben Matulino havent missed a game this year; theyll make their 20th straight appearances in this campaign, Mateo his 72nd on end since joining the Vodafone Warriors in 2011.
Johnson and Leuluai are also set to achieve the distinction of being the only halves pairing among all 16 clubs to start every game so far this season. South Sydneys Adam Reynolds and John Sutton have been in tandem all 19 games until now but Sutton has been ruled out for up to four weeks with a hand injury.
Along with St George Illawarras ex-Vodafone Warrior Nathan Fien, Leuluai is the only half who has been on the field every minute of the season so far.
The Manly Sea Eagles take compelling form into the contest. Since losing 12-18 to the competition-leading Sydney Roosters theyve beaten Parramatta 50-10, North Queensland 34-14, Gold Coast 38-20, Wests Tigers 36-18 and Parramatta again 40-6. The run of results has lifted them to third on the ladder on 29 points.
In their only match in Gosford, the Vodafone Warriors beat the then-Northern Eagles 24-16 in 2001.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v MANLY SEA EAGLES
Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford
2.00pm, Sunday, August 11
Referees: Jared Maxwell and Gavin Morris
12SIMON MANNERING (c)
HEAD COACH: MATTHEW ELLIOTT