The Vodafone Junior Warriors are set to field an unchanged line-up for the third straight week when they face Parramatta in their NYC preliminary final at ANZ Stadium on Saturday (5.15pm kick-off local time; 7.15pm NZT).
Coach Stacey Jones today named the same 17 players used in the club’s two finals wins against the Sydney Roosters (44-30) and Newcastle (23-16).
Last Saturday night’s victory improved the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ finals record to 13 wins in the 18 play-offs they’ve been involved in since the competition was launched in 2008.
This week’s contest gives co-captain Mason Lino the chance to edge closer to the possibility of reaching two NYC points-scoring milestones in what is his third and final season in the competition.
With seven points in last week’s win over the Knights, Lino lifted his tally this year to 189 points from 10 tries, 74 goals and a field goal leaving him within reach of topping 200 points in a season for the first time.
After scoring 144 points in 2012 and 147 in 2013, Lino has a career total of 480 in 60 games, leaving the 500-point mark within reach if the Vodafone Junior Warriors can continue their finals winning run.
With his three conversions and field goal last week Lino moved into second spot on the NYC’s list of highest points-scorers. He overtook Jake Mullaney who tallied 470 points in his NYC career with Wests Tigers but is a long way behind Kyle Feldt’s record of 570. Feldt’s total included 211 goals, a record Lino will claim if he kicks three goals against the Eels on Saturday.
Also eyeing a personal milestone is prop Sam Lisone. He plays his 49th game this week leaving him on track to reach the 50-game mark in the grand final if the Vodafone Junior Warriors can eliminate Parramatta; he would become the fourth player in the side to achieve the feat this season after Lino, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard and Ngataua Hukatai.
Lisone collected the double at the club’s awards last week when he was named the SKYCITY NYC Players’ Player of the Year as well as the supreme Vodafone NYC Player of the Year.
He underlined his credentials with an exceptional display against the Knights when he carried the ball 210 metres from 12 high-quality runs featuring four tackle breaks, two off loads and a line break while he also made 28 tackles.
None was more important and inspirational than his phenomenal effort to drive try-bound Newcastle fullback Jake Mamo into touch in the corner late in the game.
It was all the more remarkable because it followed a Newcastle attacking scrum close to the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ line between the touchline and goal posts. The Knights went straight to their backline on a big open side, shifting the ball wide to their right edge to Mamo, who wriggled clear of two defenders and was seemingly set to score. Only Lisone had not only got out of the scrum but had raced some 50 metres across field to round Mamo up and pound him into touch.
Set to line up at fullback again this week is Brad Abbey, who has made good progress after being forced off the field with a hip injury last weekend.
The 17-year-old – he isn’t 18 until December 30 – has had an outstanding debut season. He was named the TNT NYC Rookie of the Year at the Vodafone Warriors RED BALL Awards last week in recognition of a season which has seen him appear in all 26 matches so far (the only player in the squad to do so) and sit top of the team’s try-scoring list with 14.
After playing at Allianz Stadium in the first two weeks of the finals, the Vodafone Junior Warriors move to ANZ Stadium this week. The match against the Eels is the curtain-raiser to the NRL preliminary final between Penrith and Canterbury-Bankstown.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors, who finished eighth in the regular season, are the only side from outside the top four to reach the preliminary finals.
The Eels beat the Vodafone Junior Warriors in both regular season encounters between the two sides, romping to a 50-24 win in the first round and scoring a last-minute try for a 22-19 victory at Mount Smart Stadium in July.
Parramatta, ranked third at the end of the regular season, moved directly to the preliminary finals after beating second-placed Brisbane 32-26 in week one of the play-offs.
- Live coverage of the Vodafone Juniors Warriors v Parramatta Eels clash starts on SKY Sport 2 from 7.00pm on Saturday.
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS – NYC FINALS RECORD
2008 St George Illawarra Won 47-20
Penrith Won 38-4
Brisbane Lost 26-28
2009 St George Illawarra Lost 24-48
2010 Manly Won 25-22
Canterbury-Bankstown Won 23-16
South Sydney Won 42-28 (grand final)
2011 Newcastle Won 54-6
Canterbury-Bankstown Won 64-0
North Queensland Won 31-30 (grand final)
2012 Canberra Lost 38-39
Sydney Roosters Lost 10-26
2013 South Sydney Won 20-18
Sydney Roosters Won 58-6
Canterbury-Bankstown Won 54-38
Penrith Lost 30-42 (grand final)
2014 Sydney Roosters Won 44-30
Newcastle Won 23-16
(3) PARRAMATTA EELS v (8) VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS
ANZ Stadium, Sydney
5.15pm, Saturday, September 27
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS
1 BRAD ABBEY
2 NGATAUA HUKATAI
3 NATHANIEL ROACHE
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 METIA LISATI
6 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
7 MASON LINO (c)
8 SAM LISONE (c)
9 KURT ROBINSON
10 KOUMA SAMSON
11 MARATA NIUKORE
12 ADAM TUIMAVAVE-GERRARD
13 JAZZ TEVAGA
14 JAMES BELL
15 TOAFOFOA SIPLEY
16 KEN MAUMALO
17 IULIO AFOA
20 OFAHIKI OGDEN
COACH: STACEY JONES