Last week on Gamebreakers we looked at Ben Matulino and Andrew Fifita. Both forwards made solid contributions in the Round 22 clash, stamping their mark on the match in just 48 minutes of playing time each.
Matulino came off the bench to run for 112 metres, in addition to making 3 offloads and 19 tackles.
Fifita, whose first half was cut short by a broken arm, made 115 metres from 15 runs. He also had a massive afternoon on defence, making 34 tackles.
This week we are previewing another pair of block-busting forwards in Jacob ‘Bull’ Lillyman and Willie Mason.
Both forwards have to date had long, successful careers in the NRL. Jacob Lillyman debuted with North Queensland in 2003, where he made 62 appearances before shifting across the Tasman to join the Vodafone Warriors in 2009. At current, Lillyman has 177 career appearances to his name in the NRL, as well as 8 selections for Queensland.
Willie Mason made his start with the Bulldogs, where he played for 8 seasons before shifting to the Roosters and then moving onwards to the Cowboys. After a stint with Hull in the Super League, Mason returned down-under when he struck a contract with Newcastle, who he has been playing for since the start of the 2012 campaign.
All up, Mason has featured in 268 NRL matches, in addition to 13 State of Origin clashes for New South Wales. At 34 years of age, he is one of the league’s veterans.
Both Lillyman and Mason have had solid campaigns in 2014.
Lillyman has not missed a match this year and has churned up the metres on offence with 2499, which is second most in the Vodafone Warriors squad behind Manu Vatuvei. He leads the sides in hit-ups with 207 and also has 431 tackles to his name. Lillyman is still searching for his first try of the year, however.
Mason, who has missed two rounds, has gained 1590 metres so far this year, with 145 hit-ups. He has made two line-breaks and has dished-off eight offloads. On the defensive side of the ball, Mason has made 332 tackles.
Last time the two players met it was Lillyman who emerged with the upper hand, shining in a 38-18 win over the Knights in Round 12.
‘Bull’ ran for 132 metres on 14 carries and also made 21 tackles. Mason was effective but did not rack up the mileage like Lillyman, with 99 metres from 11 carries. He made 20 tackles but also had an error to his name.
Lillyman is looking forward to locking horns with Mason again this weekend.
“Willie is a big unit and he carries the ball strongly,” Lillyman said. “He takes a bit of stopping and doesn’t mind a bit of chat on the field.”
“We’ll have to do a job on him if we want to win.”