Vodafone Warriors head coach Matthew Elliott (pictured) has tweaked his familiar line-up only slightly by naming 18 players for Sundays 23rd-round NRL encounter with the Penrith Panthers at Mount Smart Stadium (NRL: 4.00pm kick-off; NYC: 1.45pm kick-off). Photo: Photosport


He has retained the same 17 used in the last three matches while adding centre Jerome Ropati to create a five-man bench.


The 28-year-old 140-game NRL veteran wasnt originally named but was used as 18th man for each of the Vodafone Warriors last two matches against Cronulla and Manly.


In recent weeks Ropati has been turning out for the Vulcans in the New South

Wales Cup as he has built his way back from injury. He missed the Vulcans big win over Canterbury-Bankstown last weekend, travelling to Gosford instead to provide cover in the outside backs for the NRL side.


His only two NRL appearances so far this season were against Melbourne and Gold Coast in round seven and eight.


Other than his inclusion, Elliott has the same line-up used against Melbourne, the Sharks and the Sea Eagles over the past three weeks.


With losses in the last two outings after a run of seven wins from eight games, the Vodafone Warriors take on Penrith on Heroes Day, the clubs annual celebration of the contribution the emergency services make to the community.


They go into their fourth to last match of the regular season in 10th spot on 22 points, just two behind eight-placed Gold Coast and ninth-placed Canberra, two sides they face in the next two rounds after the Penrith fixture.


The Panthers have remained on 20 points for four weeks having dropped their last four games to Newcastle (14-32), Cronulla (10-38), the Sydney Roosters (6-42) and North Queensland (4-36).


While they may not have good recent form we, of all teams, know what theyre capable of, said Elliott.


Well undoubtedly be reminded about what happened the last time we met but a lot has changed since then. Weve shown plenty of improvement generally but had a tough day against a very, very good Manly side on Sunday.


This is a game of major significance for us. Every game, every week is. What we need to do is to strive for the type of performance we know were capable of.

Our members and fans have been brilliant supporting the team this season and well certainly need everything they can provide this Sunday. This will certainly be another major test for us.


It will be captain Simon Mannerings 185th career appearance, drawing him level with Lance Hohaia in third spot on the Vodafone Warriors all-time list behind only Logan Swann (195) and Stacey Jones (261). Still only 26, Mannering will lead the side for the 85th time leaving him only six games short of equalling Steve Prices club record of 91 games in charge from 2005-2009.


Prop Sam Rapira will edge closer to his 150-game milestone with his 148th match for the club while fellow front rower Jacob Lillyman plays his 97th game since joining the club in 2009.


BUY TICKETS TO THE VODAFONE WARRIORS v PENRITH CLASH


VODAFONE WARRIORS v PENRITH PANTHERS


Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland

4.00pm, Sunday, August 18

Referees: Jason Robinson and Chris James


VODAFONE WARRIORS


1KEVIN LOCKE

2NGANI LAUMAPE

3DANE NIELSEN

4KONRAD HURRELL

5MANU VATUVEI

6THOMAS LEULUAI

7SHAUN JOHNSON

8SAM RAPIRA

9NATHAN FRIEND

10BEN MATULINO

11FELETI MATEO

12SIMON MANNERING (c)

13ELIJAH TAYLOR

Interchange:

14SUAIA MATAGI

15JACOB LILLYMAN

16TODD LOWRIE

17DOMINIQUE PEYROUX

18JEROME ROPATI


HEAD COACH: MATTHEW ELLIOTT