Vodafone Warriors acting head coach Andrew McFadden has marked his appointment by making a number of key changes for Sunday’s sixth-round NRL clash against Canterbury-Bankstown at Eden Park (4.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: SKYCITY).
Veteran Thomas Leuluai comes in at standoff for his first start of the year, Ngani Laumape returns to the NRL for the first time this season on the right wing and hooker Siliva Havili is set to become Vodafone Warrior No 190 after being named to make his debut from the bench.
In another starting line-up change Sebastine Ikahihifo is named at loose forward while utility Dominique Peyroux will also make his first NRL appearance of the year from the interchange and two other 2014 New South Wales Cup regulars – prop Charlie Gubb and David Bhana – are included on an extended bench.
The selection changes mean standoff Chad Townsend and loose forward Feleti Mateo start for the club’s New South Wales Cup team against the Bulldogs. That match is the first of another tripleheader kicking off at 11.40am followed by the NYC encounter between the Vodafone Junior Warriors and Canterbury-Bankstown at 1.40pm before the feature attraction at 4.00pm.
After being named Vodafone Warriors acting head coach yesterday, McFadden said he wouldn’t be afraid to make tough calls.
“We had to make one change on the wing with Glen (Fisiiahi) having a shoulder injury,” he said.
“That gives Ngani his chance to come back into the NRL. He has been going well for in the New South Wales Cup.
“It’s tough on Chad. He has been doing a good job but Thomas is key player for us. He’s a leader and is ready to come back into the starting line-up.
“Feleti hasn’t been going well and knows he needs to play his way back into form with our New South Wales Cup side. That means Seb starts and he deserves it after the work he has done so far this season.”
McFadden welcomed the inclusion of four other New South Wales Cup regulars on an extended interchange following the side’s commanding 44-6 win against the Sharks last week.
“They have all earned their selection on the extended bench,” he said.
“It’s really exciting for Siliva to be making his debut and he thoroughly deserves it. Dom was the players’ player of the day against Cronulla and Charlie and David have both been working hard for the New South Wales Cup side. It’s good to be able to recognise them.”
While highly disappointed after the Vodafone Warriors’ 6-37 loss to Cronulla last week, McFadden said the team’s focus was firmly on preparing for the encounter with the Bulldogs at Eden Park.
“We’ve dealt with the performance against Cronulla. It was a poor performance,” he said.
“We need to move past that and get our preparation right for the Bulldogs. We’ve had a difficult week but now it’s all about the football and taking on a side that has been going really well.”
The Bulldogs have won their last two matches, edging the premiership-winning Roosters 9-8 last week and hammering Melbourne 40-12 in Perth in a match the influential Cameron Smith missed through injury. In 30 matches between the two clubs, the Vodafone Warriors have won 12 and lost 16 with two matches drawn.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
Eden Park, Auckland
4.00pm, Sunday, April 13
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 NGANI LAUMAPE
3 DANE NIELSEN
4 KONRAD HURRELL
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 THOMAS LEULUAI
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 SAM RAPIRA
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 BEN MATULINO
11 JAYSON BUKUYA
12 SIMON MANNERING (c)
13 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
14 JACOB LILLYMAN
15 SUAIA MATAGI
16 DOMINIQUE PEYROUX
17 CHARLIE GUBB
18 SILIVA HAVILI
21 DAVID BHANA
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN