Memories of previous games and former players come into sharp focus again as the Vodafone Warriors play the 500th match in the club’s history facing Parramatta in today’s 10th-round NRL encounter at Pirtek Stadium (3.00pm kick-off local time; 5.00pm NZT).
It was at the Eels’ home ground that the club’s greatest player announced his arrival, Stacey Jones – now the Vodafone Warriors’ NSW Cup coach – coming off the bench to make the first of his club record 261 appearances on April 23, 1995.
Jones scored a try almost immediately on a day when the original Auckland Warriors swamped Parramatta 40-4.
As it happens this week marked the 20th anniversary of his first starting appearance for the club against Cronulla on May 14, 1995, a day which also coincided with the 20th anniversary of Team New Zealand winning the America’s Cup.
Visits to the west Sydney club haven’t been routinely successful.
After the success on the first trip there in 1995, the Vodafone Warriors didn’t win there again until 2008 when the great Manu Vatuvei scored his first career hat-trick in a 28-6 victory in the final round of the regular season; it enabled the Vodafone Warriors to claim eighth spot for the play-offs.
In the last six games at Pirtek Stadium the Vodafone Warriors have won three although the home side claimed convincing victories there in the last two seasons.
After snatching a late 20-16 win over Cronulla last week, the Vodafone Warriors are eighth on the ladder with a four wins-five losses record while the Eels are 15th with three wins and six losses.
The Vodafone Warriors go into their last match before their first bye without suspended centre Konrad Hurrell and with Vatuvei also in doubt throughout the week after picking up a sternum injury last week. Dominique Peyroux replaces Hurrell in his first start of the season after three interchange appearances; that in turn results in Sione Lousi being brought onto the bench for his first NRL game this year after being a fixture for the NSW Cup side.
While game No 500 makes this another big moment for the club in its 20th anniversary season, it’s extra special on a personal level for wing Jonathan Wright who plays his 100thcareer game against his original club.
Today’s match is the 35th between the Vodafone Warriors and the Eels. Parramatta has a 19-15 edge since 1995 and a 13-4 advantage in home games (including two ‘home’ wins in Hamilton).
Heading into the landmark 500th game, the Vodafone Warriors have an overall record of 233 wins, seven draws and 259 losses.
After the bye next weekend the Vodafone Warriors face Newcastle at Mount Smart Stadium on May 31, their first home game since the Anzac Day clash against Gold Coast. It will also be the club’s first chance to mark the NRL’s Women in League theme (this week is the official Women in League Round).
BUY TICKETS | VODAFONE WARRIORS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
#1 JONATHAN WRIGHT | Playing for his fourth club since his debut in 2009, Wright reaches his 100th career appearance against his original side. He has put together a series of solid all-round displays over including a try in each of his last three games.
#2 DOMINIQUE PEYROUX | Peyroux has his first start of the season replacing suspended Konrad Hurrell in the centres. So far he has made three interchange appearances in 2015 while he was also on the bench against Melbourne but wasn’t used.
#3 SHAUN JOHNSON | Johnson has provided the match-winning spark for the Kiwis and the Vodafone Warriors in his last two performances, scoring dazzling individual tries against the Kangaroos and the Kiwis as well as playing a key hand in most other tries scored.
#4 RYAN HOFFMAN | In his last outing before his expected Origin call-up for New South Wales, the rangy Hoffman will again be key to the Vodafone Warriors’ fortunes. His charge-down against the Sharks was a huge play, ultimately a match-winning act.
#5 SIONE LOUSI | Utility forward Lousi comes onto the bench for Dominique Peyroux for his first NRL appearance of the season (43rd of his career) after playing in eight of the Vodafone Warriors’ nine New South Wales Cup games so far this season.
TOP STATS | SATURDAY, MAY 09 v CRONULLA SHARKS WON 20-16
Most runs | Simon Mannering 16, Chad Townsend 14, Bodene Thompson 13, Ryan Hoffman 12, Jonathan Wright 13, Jacob Lillyman 12, Ben Matulino 12, Konrad Hurrell 11, Tuimoala Lolohea 11, Albert Vete 10.
Most metres | Ryan Hoffman 143, Bodene Thompson 117, Konrad Hurrell 115, Simon Mannering 113, Chad Townsend 113, Jacob Lillyman 110, Albert Vete 105, Jonathan Wright 105, Ben Matulino 100.
Most tackle breaks | Solomone Kata 5, Chad Townsend 5, Konrad Hurrell 3.
Most tackles | Simon Mannering 46, Bodene Thompson 37, Thomas Leuluai 36, Ryan Hoffman 30, Chad Townsend 28, Ben Matulino 25, Jacob Lillyman 24.
Missed tackles | Simon Mannering 0, Bodene Thompson 0, Albert Vete 0, Nathan Friend 0, Tuimoala Lolohea 0, Jonathan Wright.
RECORD | v PARRAMATTA EELS
Overall | Played 34, Vodafone Warriors 15, Eels 19.
Away | Played 17, Vodafone Warriors 4, Eels 13.
500 Games | The Vodafone Warriors play their 500th match since entering the competition in 1995.
200 NRL Games | Jacob Lillyman plays his 196th NRL match.
150 NRL Games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 134th game for the club.
100 NRL Games (all for Vodafones Warriors) | Shaun Johnson plays his 93rd NRL match.
100 NRL Games | Jonathan Wright plays his 100th NRL match.
100 NRL Games | Bodene Thompson plays his 95th NRL match.
50 NRL Games | Chad Townsend plays his 48th NRL match.
150 NRL Tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 142 tries in 203 games.
50 NRL Tries | Shaun Johnson 39, Konrad Hurrell 38.
PARRAMATTA EELS v VODAFONE WARRIORS
Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta
3.00pm, Saturday, May 16
Referees: Grant Atkins and Gavin Reynolds
1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
2 JONATHAN WRIGHT
3 DOMINIQUE PEYROUX
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 SIONE LOUSI
16 SAM LISONE
17 SAM RAPIRA
18 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN
BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ
Head to head | Parramatta $2.05, Vodafone Warriors $1.70
GO TO TAB.CO.NZ FOR ALL ODDS | VODAFONE WARRIORS v PARRAMATTA EELS
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 4.30pm NZT (kick-off 5.00pm), Saturday, May 16