NRL ROUND #21 | Johnson and Mateo back
Halfback Shaun Johnson and back rower Feleti Mateo both return for the Vodafone Warriors’ trip to Canberra for their 21st-round NRL clash on Sunday (2.00pm local time; 4.00pm NZT).
Johnson (groin) and Mateo (calf) were both late defections from the line-up for last Sunday’s 12-22 loss to competition leader Manly.
Johnson comes back into the halves with Chad Townsend while Mateo is on a six-man bench with Ben Matulino, Sam Rapira, Thomas Leuluai, Tuimoala Lolohea and Sione Lousi.
Johnson has missed just three of a possible 79 matches since establishing himself as a first-choice selection in 2011.
Mateo played 79 consecutive matches for the club until he missed the fourth-round clash against Wests Tigers in Wellington in March.
Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden said both players had recovered well after being ruled out of the Manly encounter.
“We’re very hopeful they’ll be right to play but we have Tui and Sione there as cover if needed,” he said.
Ex-Raiders McFadden and assistant coach Adam Mogg will be in familiar territory when they head back to the Australian Capital Territory this week.
McFadden had his second victory as Vodafone Warriors head coach against his old club at Eden Park in May – a 54-12 win – but this will be his first in charge in Canberra (he was assistant coach for last year’s 16-20 loss there).
The Vodafone Warriors have won just two wins in Canberra in their history with only one in 11 attempts at Canberra Stadium (a 31-24 victory in 1997 when former All Black Marc Ellis kicked five goals and field goal); the other win in the Australian capital was a 22-10 success in a one-off appearance at Manuka Oval in 2001.
“I’m not concerned about our record there,” said McFadden.
“This game is about focusing on ourselves and controlling what we can control.
“It’s obviously a hugely important match for us in the context of the season.”
The Vodafone Warriors go into the match sitting ninth on the table after a second consecutive loss.
They’re one of six teams on 22 points headed by North Queensland in seventh spot with Brisbane eighth.
The 15th-placed Raiders have an impressive record at Canberra Stadium overall with a winning percentage of better than 67 per cent but their 18-34 loss to South Sydney last night was their sixth in eight matches at the venue this year.
The match will be Ben Matulino’s 147th NRL appearance leaving him in line to play his 150th game when the Vodafone Warriors host the Sydney Roosters on August 24.
The contest to be the Vodafone Warriors’ top try scorer this season has tightened up with Manu Vatuvei and Konrad Hurrell both on 10, Sam Tomkins and Simon Mannering on nine and Johnson on eight. Mannering has had the distinction of scoring eight tries in his last eight appearances.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v CANBERRA RAIDERS
GIO Stadium, Canberra
2.00pm, Sunday, August 3
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 NGANI LAUMAPE
3 KONRAD HURRELL
4 DANE NIELSEN
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 CHAD TOWNSEND
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 SUAIA MATAGI
11 BEN HENRY
12 SIMON MANNERING (c)
13 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
14 FELETI MATEO
15 BEN MATULINO
16 SAM RAPIRA
17 THOMAS LEULUAI
18 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
20 SIONE LOUSI
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN