Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden has made seven changes for the club’s 14th-round NRL encounter with the Sydney Roosters at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday (8.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Vodafone).
The match headlines the #ZombieNight tripleheader opening with the NYC clash between the Vodafone Junior Warriors and the Roosters (3.40pm kick-off) and followed by the Vodafone Warriors’ New South Wales Cup game against Wyong (5.45pm).
McFadden was forced to make two changes to the NRL side’s starting pack with prop Jacob Lillyman (Queensland) and second rower Ryan Hoffman (New South Wales) both retained for tomorrow week’s Origin II battle in Melbourne.
Promoted from the interchange to start in Lillyman’s place is 2015 rookie Albert Vete (22) with Raymond Faitala-Mariner earning his second NRL appearance as Hoffman’s replacement after becoming the club’s 200th first-grade player in his debut against Gold Coast on Anzac Day.
Brought onto the interchange for Vete is Charlie Gubb, the 25-year-old set to play his first NRL game this season and the seventh of his career stretching back to 2013.
In other changes from the side used in last Saturday night’s loss to South Sydney in Perth, Sam Tomkins is set to start at fullback, a clean-shaven Konrad Hurrell returns from his three-game suspension to replace Jonathan Wright in the centres and Tuimoala Lolohea moves to the interchange for Siliva Havili.
“Albie (Vete) and Sam (Lisone) have been really good for us this season and now Albie has the chance to find out what it’s like starting an NRL game,” said McFadden.
“Ray has earned his starting spot through his efforts for our New South Wales Cup side as has Charlie on the interchange.
“Ken demanded selection again through his performance last week which is tough on Jono. He has been great for us.
“With Sam (Tomkins) we’re hopeful he’ll get through the week and be ready to come back for this game. That results in Tui moving onto the interchange where he can cover a number of positions for us.
“It’s also timely to have Koni back and I can’t say enough about how hard he has worked while he has been on the sideline.”
With a 6-6 record and 14 points, the Vodafone Warriors are now eighth on the ladder following Canterbury-Bankstown’s win over St George Illawarra yesterday.
Manu Vatuvei has the chance on Saturday night to achieve one of the most remarkable feats in rugby league history. He scored his ninth try of the season last week and should he snare a try against the Roosters he’ll have the distinction of scoring 10 tries in 10 consecutive seasons, a mark no player has achieved since the competition began in 1908.
Now 13th equal on the all-time list with 144 tries in 205 games, Vatuvei is also within reach of becoming just the 11th player to score 150 tries in the competition; the only current players ahead of him are Melbourne’s Billy Slater (172 tries in 277 games) and Manly’s Brett Stewart (152 tries in 201 games) while South Sydney’s Greg Inglis (129 tries in 213 games) ranks fourth among active players.
In 33 clashes against the Roosters, the Vodafone Warriors have won 18, drawn one and lost 14. The clubs are 2-2 in the last four encounters since 2012 while the Vodafone Warriors have a 9-6 advantage in 15 games played at Mount Smart Stadium.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
8.00pm, Saturday, June 13
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 KEN MAUMALO
3 KONRAD HURRELL
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 CHAD TOWNSEND
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 ALBERT VETE
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER
13 SIMON MANNERING (c)
14 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
15 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
16 SAM LISONE
17 CHARLIE GUBB
18 JONATHAN WRIGHT
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN