Konrad Hurrell has been named to return from injury while Ben Matulino will become the 10th player to appear in 150 NRL matches for the Vodafone Warriors when they face the 2013 premiership-winning Sydney Roosters in Sunday's 24th-round clash at Mount Smart Stadium (2.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Lion Red).
Matulino will also be the first NYC graduate from all 16 clubs to reach the milestone having also been the first to hit the 100-game mark in 2012.
After making his NYC debut in the competition’s debut season in 2008, the big Wellington-born and raised back rower-prop became Vodafone Warriors No 142 when he made his NRL debut that year.
Since then he has also gone on to play 19 Tests for the Kiwis, all of this while still only 25.
For his 150th game Matulino has been named to revert to his alternative role as a starting prop after being used in the second row in Sunday’s disappointing 22-28 loss to Newcastle.
His inclusion in the front row results in Suaia Matagi, who hasn’t missed a game this season, being switched to the bench.
In another key change Hurrell is named to start in the centres after being sidelined with a hamstring injury he picked up in the first half of the Vodafone Warriors’ 54-18 win over Canberra on August 3.
His availability sees Ben Henry switched back to the second row alongside captain Simon Mannering with workhorse Sebastine Ikahihifo back at loose forward after missing the Newcastle encounter.
Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden hasn’t hidden his dissatisfaction with the performance against the Knights.
“It was hugely disappointing, not what we expect of ourselves,” he said.
“We didn’t play well the week before against Cronulla and let ourselves down again against the Knights.
“Facing a team like the Roosters is a massive challenge with the roster they have and the form they picked up against the Tigers last week. There’s no question we will need to be at the absolute top of our game to compete with them.”
Despite Sunday’s loss the Vodafone Warriors remain eighth on 26 points going into their biggest home game of the season against the star-laden Roosters.
Two of the Roosters’ biggest names are in line for their last appearances at Mount Smart Stadium – captain Anthony Minichiello, who is retiring at the end of this season, and Sonny Bill Williams; Williams isn’t listed to return from his thumb injury until the 25th round but may be a chance to come back this week in what would be possibly his final rugby league match in New Zealand before switching to rugby union again next year.
Elsewhere the Roosters have a cast of internationals and State of Origin players including Kiwis Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Sam Moa and Frank Paul-Nuuausala plus Origin players in Michael Jennings, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Boyd Cordner and Aidan Guerra. Hooker Jake Friend is set to return from injury this week.
There will be only two games on the programme at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday, starting with the eighth-placed Vodafone Junior Warriors facing the fifth-placed Roosters (1.45pm kick-off). The club’s New South Wales Cup side plays the Newtown Jets on Mount Smart Stadium No 2 on Saturday (1.00pm kick-off).
VODAFONE WARRIORS v SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
2.00pm, Sunday, August 24
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 DAVID FUSITU’A
3 KONRAD HURRELL
4 NGANI LAUMAPE
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 CHAD TOWNSEND
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 THOMAS LEULUAI
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BEN HENRY
12 SIMON MANNERING (c)
13 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
14 FELETI MATEO
15 SUAIA MATAGI
16 SIONE LOUSI
17 NATHAN FRIEND
18 JAYSON BUKUYA
20 SAM RAPIRA
21 DOMINIQUE PEYROUX
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN