Newly-appointed Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden has named an unchanged starting line-up for Saturday’s 10th-round away clash against the NRL’s table-topping Canterbury-Bankstown at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton (4.00pm kick-off).
The same interchange bench of Feleti Mateo, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Sione Lousi and Kevin Locke has also been named with prop Charlie Gubb added.
The Bulldogs provide a common link in McFadden’s short career so far as an NRL coach.
They were his first assignment when he was appointed acting head coach for the April 13 clash at Eden Park, a match the Bulldogs won 21-20 through a late field goal after being 18-20 behind inside the last 10 minutes.
Now in his first outing as the permanent head coach he prepares to take on the same side at a time when it has stitched together a run of six straights wins to climb to the top of the ladder.
The Vodafone Warriors have also found form under McFadden, following their one-point loss to the Bulldogs with a hard-fought 10-20 defeat by the St George Illawarra Dragons and then two impressive victories over Melbourne (16-10) and Canberra (54-12).
“While there was much to like about our effort and also our execution against the Raiders, the Bulldogs are another challenge completely,” said McFadden.
“They fully deserve their spot at the top of the table, proving time and again that they know how to close out tough games.
“We’ve improved in many areas, especially our effort levels, but we’re still a long way off where we need to be. This game will be another huge test for us.”
Over the last four games the Vodafone Warriors have conceded an average of less than 16 points a game; they’re currently the ninth best defensive side in the competition.
The nine-try trouncing of the Raiders has also boosted their points for numbers to the point they rank sixth best on attack behind the Bulldogs, Manly, Parramatta, the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney.
They go into the Hamilton contest on the back of two vastly contrasting outings; the Melbourne clash was a classic arm wrestle while the Canberra game turned into a points-scoring romp as the Vodafone Warriors put 50 points on the Raiders for the second time running. Of the 104 points scored in those two games Shaun Johnson and Manu Vatuvei have accounted for 72 between them (Johnson with 52 points – 26 in each match – from five tries and 16 goals and Vatuvei with five tries).
With his first conversion last Saturday, Johnson brought up the 10,000th point in the Vodafone Warriors’ history (in their 475th match and their 20th season). He also took his career tally through the 300-point barrier.
Vatuvei reached 500 career points with his second try, his 125th in his 179th appearance for the club (only Stacey Jones with 674 and James Maloney with 547 have scored more points than him).
Captain Simon Mannering will move within two games of his 200th appearance this weekend leaving him on track to reach the milestone when the Vodafone Warriors meet Newcastle in their first match of the year at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday, June 1 (4.00pm kick-off).
VODAFONE WARRIORS v CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
4.00pm, Sunday, May 18
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 NGANI LAUMAPE
3 KONRAD HURRELL
4 BEN HENRY
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 CHAD TOWNSEND
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 SUAIA MATAGI
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 JACOB LILLYMAN
11 JAYSON BUKUYA
12 BEN MATULINO
13 SIMON MANNERING (c)
14 FELETI MATEO
15 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
16 SIONE LOUSI
17 KEVIN LOCKE
20 CHARLIE GUBB
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN