Jayson Bukuya, Ben Henry and David Fusitua have all been recalled for the Vodafone Warriors’ seventh-round NRL encounter with St George Illawarra at WIN Jubilee Oval in Sydney on Saturday (5.30pm kick-off local time; 7.30pm NZT).
Bukuya (foot) and Henry (knee) both return from injury while Fusitua earns his second NRL appearance coming in on the right wing.
Bukuya replaces Ben Matulino, who is out for two matches after taking an early guilty plea on a shoulder charge, while Henry comes onto the bench with last week’s starting loose forward Sebastine Ikahihifo recovering from a head knock.
In another change Vodafone Warriors acting head coach Andrew McFadden has omitted centre Konrad Hurrell.
“Konrad knows what he has to work on and he’ll do that with the New South Wales Cup side,” said McFadden.
“It’s a performance-related matter concerning his defensive effort KPIs. It has been made clear to him what he needs to improve on.”
While leaving Hurrell out, McFadden said Henry’s return earlier than expected was a major boost. The former Vodafone Junior Warriors captain has missed the last four matches after picking up a knee cartilage injury in his first NRL outing of the year against the Dragons; now he returns to face the same side.
“Ben has recovered really well and it’s great to have him back in the side,” he said.
“Ngani made the most of his opportunities last week and he’ll do a great job for us in the centres while we certainly have a high regard for David.
“With Seb we’re taking a conservative approach after he left the field with a head knock on Sunday. We’ve been monitoring him and he’s making good progress.”
Fusitua’s second NRL game comes against the same opponent he made his debut against at Eden Park on March 15.
With Matulino and Ikahihifo missing, Dominique Peyroux, who played his first NRL game of the year last weekend, starts in the second row with Bukuya and captain Simon Mannering is switched to loose forward.
Veteran Jacob Lillyman will again start in the front row after again being named the players’ player of the day for the third time this season last week.
This weekend’s match will mark just the fourth time the Vodafone Warriors have played at WIN Jubilee Oval (Kogarah Oval). The first two were losses against the original St George Dragons in 1996 and 1998 while the Vodafone Warriors had a 30-20 win over St George Illawarra there in 2003.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
WIN Jubilee Oval, Sydney
5.30pm, Saturday, April 19
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 DAVID FUSITUA
3 DANE NIELSEN
4 NGANI LAUMAPE
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 THOMAS LEULUAI
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 SAM RAPIRA
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 JACOB LILLYMAN
11 DOMINIQUE PEYROUX
12 JAYSON BUKUYA
13 SIMON MANNERING (c)
14 SILIVA HAVILI
15 SUAIA MATAGI
16 CHARLIE GUBB
17 BEN HENRY
18 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN