The Vodafone Warriors know more about the NRL’s toughest away trips than any other club and for four years on end they’ve been handed the most challenging of them all, the big test in the west.
Their 20th anniversary season has taken them back to Perth for the seventh time overall in the club’s history.
For the third straight season they face South Sydney more than 5300kms from Auckland, only this time the difference is the Rabbitohs are the defending premiers.
Two visits to the WACA Ground in 1996 and 1997 ended in losses to the long-since-gone Western Reds, who had entered the competition alongside the Warriors in 1995.
It was 10 years later before the Vodafone Warriors played in Western Australia again when Cronulla took its home game there and scored a last-minute try to win 28-24 at what was then known as Members Equity Stadium (now nib Stadium) in 2005.
The current run of visits began against Manly in 2012 when the Sea Eagles prevailed 24-22 at Patersons Stadium while the Rabbitohs have won 30-13 and 34-18 in the last two encounters at nib Stadium.
The same venue is again being used for the 13th-round clash tomorrow (Saturday) with the two teams both on 14 points on the ladder, the Rabbitohs sixth and the Vodafone Warriors seventh.
It brings up a milestone for standoff Chad Townsend who makes his 50th NRL appearance. It has been some time in the making after he was used sparingly by Cronulla with just 19 games from 2011-2013 but tomorrow he plays his 31st match for the Vodafone Warriors in only a season and a half.
The Vodafone Warriors come into the contest after featuring in five consecutive four-point score-lines, a record for the longest run of games decided by the same margin. It started with 24-28 and 28-32 losses to North Queensland and Gold Coast before the Vodafone Warriors put together wins against Cronulla (20-16), Parramatta (17-13) and Newcastle (24-20). It’s only the third time since 2011 that the Vodafone Warriors have won three or more games in a row.
While they’ve lost their last three encounters with the Rabbitohs, the Vodafone Warriors have a better record against Souths than any of the competition’s current clubs (winning 18 of 28 games they’ve played, including the club’s 66-0 all-time record victory in 2006).
Jacob Lillyman makes his 198th career appearance this week, Bodene Thompson his 97th and Shaun Johnson his 95th.
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 FRONT ROWERS | Starting props Ben Matulino and Jacob Lillyman plus reinforcements from the bench – Sam Lisone, Albert Vete and Sebastine Ikahihifo – will be the key in the middle along with captain Simon Mannering and hookers Nathan Friend and Siliva Havili.
#2 CHAD TOWNSEND | Townsend’s first significant milestone – his 50th NRL appearance – has been a long time in the making after being sparingly used by the Sharks from 2011-13. In his second and last season with the Vodafone Warriors he has been consistently impressive.
#3 BODENE THOMPSON | In his first season with the Vodafone Warriors, Thompson has found his niche, impressing his team-mates by being named the players’ player of the day in each of the last two wins over Parramatta and Newcastle.
#4 MANU VATUVEI | The big man showed plenty of courage against Newcastle last week when he defied his sternum injury with the most runs (15) and metres (172) for the team. He also scored his eighth try to take his career tally to 143 in 204 games.
#5 SAM TOMKINS | Like Manu Vatuvei, Tomkins played on against Newcastle despite being in obvious discomfort last week. He showed ample bravery in his first game back from his knee injury particularly with his defensive work and positional play.
TOP STATS | SUNDAY, MAY 31 v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS WON 24-20
Most runs | Manu Vatuvei 15, Jacob Lillyman 14, Ben Matulino 14, Tuimoala Lolohea 13, Ryan Hoffman 13, Chad Townsend 11, Simon Mannering 11, Ryan Hoffman 11, Shaun Johnson 10, Solomone Kata 10, Jonathan Wright 10, Sam Lisone 10.
Most metres | Manu Vatuvei 172, Tuimoala Lolohea 151, Jacob Lillyman 137, Bodene Thompson 127, Solomone Kata 122, Ben Matulino 119, Sam Lisone 103.
Most tackle breaks | Manu Vatuvei 4, Solomone Kata 3, Tuimoala Lolohea 3, Shaun Johnson 3, Ben Matulino 3.
Most tackles | Simon Mannering 49, Bodene Thompson 42, Nathan Friend 30, Jacob Lillyman 29, Shaun Johnson 26, Chad Townsend 26, Ben Matulino 26, Jonathan Wright 23, Ryan Hoffman 21.
Missed tackles | Simon Mannering 0, Ryan Hoffman 0, Sam Lisone 0, Sam Tomkins 0.
RECORD | v SOUTH SYDNEY
Overall | Played 28, Vodafone Warriors 18, Rabbitohs 10.
Home | Played 14, Vodafone Warriors 9, Rabbitohs 5.
200 NRL Games | Jacob Lillyman plays his 198th NRL match.
150 NRL Games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 136th game for the club.
100 NRL Games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Shaun Johnson plays his 95TH NRL match.
100 NRL Games | Bodene Thompson plays his 97th NRL match.
50 NRL Games | Chad Townsend plays his 50th NRL match.
150 NRL Tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 143 tries in 204 games.
50 NRL Tries | Shaun Johnson 40, Konrad Hurrell 38.
500 NRL Points | Shaun Johnson 487.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS v VODAFONE WARRIORS
nib Stadium, Perth
3.30pm, Saturday, June 06
Referees: Jared Maxwell and Chris Butler
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 JONATHAN WRIGHT
3 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 CHAD TOWNSEND
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN
13 SIMON MANNERING (c)
14 SILIVA HAVILI
15 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
16 SAM LISONE
17 ALBERT VETE
18 DOMINIQUE PEYROUX
21 KEN MAUMALO
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN
BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ
Head to head | South Sydney Rabbitohs $1.62, Vodafone Warriors $2.20
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 7.00pm NZT (kick-off 7.30pm), Saturday, June 06