Back rower Raymond Faitala-Mariner will become the Vodafone Warriors’ 200th NRL player while veteran prop Sam Rapira will have his first outing of the season in the club’s historic Anzac Day encounter at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday (1.45pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Canterbury of New Zealand).
Also coming into the side for the first time this year is 20-year-old David Fusitu’a replacing Konrad Hurrell in the centres.
Otahuhu Leopards junior Faitala-Mariner (21) and 169-game NRL veteran Rapira (28) have both been named on the bench for the Vodafone Warriors’ eighth-round encounter with the Gold Coast Titans.
Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden said the selection of the trio reflected the intense competition within the wider squad.
“Ray has been impressive all season for us in the NSW Cup and fully deserves his debut,” hes aid.
“Sam has been great working his way back into form from injury in the NSW Cup side and David was outstanding in the two games he has played so far.
“The changes are the result of the real competition for spots which is exactly what we want and need.”
Faitala-Mariner’s call-up as the 200th NRL player in what is the club’s 20th anniversary season provides yet another example of the success of the Vodafone Warriors’ development system. He made his 25th and last appearance for the Vodafone Junior Warriors in the 2013 NYC grand final before joining the club’s fulltime NRL squad last year.
Also used in the New South Wales Cup in 2013 for the now-defunct Auckland Vulcans, Faitala-Mariner appeared 24 times for the Vodafone Warriors in the NSW Cup last season and figured in the club’s NRL trials against the Titans and Penrith in February.
After five more NSW Cup games this season he travelled to Townsville as the NRL side’s 18th man last weekend.
Coming back from a hamstring injury, Rapira has made his way back with three appearances in the NSW Cup to claim selection for the first time in his 10th and final NRL season before he moves to the English Super League next year.
Fusitu’a had shoulder surgery in the offseason and has announced his return with three tries in his first two games back for the NSW Cup side.
Rapira and Faitala-Mariner come in for Albert Vete and Dominique Peyroux; Peyroux stays in the NRL squad as 18th man while Vete joins Hurrell in the NSW Cup side against the Newtown Jets in the second match on Saturday (11.40am kick-off).
The club’s first-ever Anzac Day match at home launches a programme of five games in five cities on a day New Zealanders and Australians unite to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli.
After the first game in Auckland, the schedule continues with the Knights playing the Cowboys in Newcastle (4.00pm NZT), the Roosters hosting the Dragons in Sydney (6.00pm), the Storm taking on the Sea Eagles in Melbourne (8.00pm) and the Broncos meeting the Eels in Brisbane (10.00pm).
Each match will be preceded by an official Anzac Day ceremony including the Last Post, a moment’s silence, the Ode of Remembrance and both national anthems. Also featuring at Mount Smart Stadium will be the Royal New Zealand Navy Band while 600 defence forces personnel will be special guests in a dedicated bay in the West Stand.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v GOLD COAST TITANS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
1.45pm, Saturday, April 25
1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
2 JONATHAN WRIGHT
3 DAVID FUSITU’A
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 CHAD TOWNSEND
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 THOMAS LEULUAI
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN
13 SIMON MANNERING (c)
14 NATHAN FRIEND
15 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER
16 SAM LISONE
17 SAM RAPIRA
18 DOMINIQUE PEYROUX
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN