Three changes have been made to the Vodafone Warriors’ line-up for their traditional NRL Anzac Day encounter with the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park on Friday (6.00pm kick-off local time; 8.00pm NZT).
Chad Townsend returns at standoff after playing for the club’s New South Wales Cup side the last two weeks.
He replaces Thomas Leuluai, again troubled by the groin injury which delayed his start to the 2014 campaign.
In other changes Jayson Bukuya is again named in the second row; he was also named against Canterbury-Bankstown and St George Illawarra before being ruled out due to a nagging foot injury.
The third change sees Feleti Mateo added to the interchange after spending the last two games in the New South Wales Cup.
“We’re managing Thomas through his injury,” said Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden.
“He needs time off to rest it and we hope to have him back for our next home game against Canberra (at Eden Park on May 10).
“It gives Chad another chance in the NRL. It was difficult leaving him out a couple of weeks ago but he has maintained his form in the New South Wales Cup.”
McFadden said he was optimistic Bukuya would return this week after being close to playing against the Dragons while Mateo had earned a recall after influential efforts for the New South Wales Cup side against the Bulldogs and Illawarra.
Heading into Friday’s match in Melbourne, the Vodafone Warriors and the Storm have split the last eight encounters between the two sides since 2010. Stretching back to 2008 the record shows six wins, a draw and six losses in the last 13 games.
The last time they met at Mount Smart Stadium last July, the Vodafone Warriors won a memorable contest 30-22 to reclaim the Michael Moore Trophy; they won both the Anzac Day clash and their preliminary final at AMII Park in 2011.
With Michael Moore Trophy at stake on Friday, both teams have similar form lines over the last month. The Vodafone Warriors have followed their 42-18 win over Wests Tigers with three loss while the Storm have had losses to Canterbury-Bankstown and Gold Coast, a two-point win over the Dragons and a two-point loss to the Raiders on Sunday. In their first three matches of the year Melbourne had one-point wins against Manly and Penrith followed by a 28-20 win against Newcastle.
The Vodafone Warriors will have eight players making their eighth straight outing of the year – Sam Tomkins, Dane Nielsen, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Jacob Lillyman, Simon Mannering and Suaia Matagi.
Starting at loose forward again will be Sebastine Ikahihifo, named the players’ player of the day for his performance against the Dragons.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v MELBOURNE STORM
AAMI Park, Melbourne
6.00pm, Friday, April 25
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 DAVID FUSITUA
3 DANE NIELSEN
4 NGANI LAUMAPE
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 CHAD TOWNSEND
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 SAM RAPIRA
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 JACOB LILLYMAN
11 JAYSON BUKUYA
12 SIMON MANNERING (c)
13 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
14 BEN HENRY
15 SUAIA MATAGI
16 SILIVA HAVILI
17 FELETI MATEO
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN