Nothing separates the Vodafone Warriors and fierce rivals Melbourne in contests they’ve played at Mount Smart Stadium since the Storm first entered the NRL in 1998.
In 16 encounters in Auckland the two teams have each won eight times while the last six at Mount Smart have been evenly split at 3-3 as well.
The Vodafone Warriors have a reputation as one of the Storm’s most challenging opponents with only Canterbury-Bankstown managing more wins against them, the Vodafone Warriors having 15 dating back to their initial successes the first two times the teams met in 1998.
While they have savoured a healthy quotient of victories none has ever been easy, though. The biggest winning margin at Mount Smart Stadium has been only 10 points when they had a 20-10 triumph in 2002; only one win – 28-12 in Melbourne in 2002 – has exceeded that margin.
Two matches at Mount Smart ended in a 2-4 loss in 2007 and an 8-6 win in 2008 while in 2010 the Vodafone Warriors regained the Michael Moore Trophy with a tight 13-6 triumph at home.
All the pointers indicate this Sunday’s 36th meeting between the two clubs will be as close as ever.
The Vodafone Warriors are seeking their third straight win this week and the chance to stay in the top four frame on the ladder; the Storm are out to arrest a three-match losing run.
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 JACOB LILLYMAN | ‘Bull’ takes exceptional form into this match after producing the best performance of his Origin career in Queensland’s 52-6 series-winning demolition of the Blues. In just 33 minutes he had stats of 138 metres from 13 runs and five tackle breaks.
#2 BEN MATULINO | Like fellow starting prop Jacob Lillyman, Matulino is in vintage form. In the big win over Gold Coast he made 222 metres from 21 runs and followed up with 204 metres from 21 runs against Canberra. He and Lillyman will need to be on point again.
#3 SHAUN JOHNSON | Johnson lives with and accepts the responsibility he has as the team’s premier playmaker. He more than delivered against the Titans and the Raiders scoring a total of 34 points, kicking 11 goals from 12 attempts and being heavily involved in the play.
#4 SIMON MANNERING | No player needed or deserved a week off more than Mannering. He has shouldered an exhausting workload all season so far and was exceptional last time out against the Raiders with 173 metres from 20 runs plus 32 tackles without a miss.
#5 NATHAN FRIEND | Friend will have heavy demands on him again fronting one of his former clubs. He played the full 80 minutes against the Raiders, making great gains out of dummy half and adding 53 tackles with just one miss. More of the same is needed this week.
TOP STATS | SATURDAY, JUNE 27 v CANBERRA RAIDERS | WON 30-8
Penalties | Vodafone Warriors 9, Canberra 7.
Completions | Vodafone Warriors 35/42 (83%), Canberra 27/34 (79%).
Total runs | Vodafone Warriors 204, Canberra 133.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors 1890, Canberra 1262.
Dummy half runs (metres) | Vodafone Warriors 13 (131), Canberra 8 (86).
Line breaks | Vodafone Warriors 4, Canberra 1.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors 38, Canberra 8.
Kicks (kicking metres) | Vodafone Warriors 23 (504), Canberra 19 (521).
Tackles | Vodafone Warriors 303, Canberra 405.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors 8, Canberra 38.
Offloads | Vodafone Warriors 18, Canberra 8.
Errors | Vodafone Warriors 9, Canberra 7.
Runs | Ben Matulino 21, Simon Mannering 20, Manu Vatuvei 16, Ryan Hoffman 16, Shaun Johnson 15, Konrad Hurrell 14, Solomone Kata 13, Chad Townsend 13, Jacob Lillyman 13, Charlie Gubb 11, Bodene Thompson 11, Tuimoala Lolohea 11, Sam Tomkins 10.
Metres gained | Manu Vatuvei 218, Ben Matulino 204, Simon Mannering 173, Jacob Lillyman 131, Konrad Hurrell 125, Shaun Johnson 123, Ryan Hoffman 120, Solomone Kata 113, Bodene Thompson 111, Tuimoala Lolohea 104, Chad Townsend 103.
Tackle breaks | Shaun Johnson 7, Manu Vatuvei 4, Nathan Friend 4, Konrad Hurrell 3, Solomone Kata 3, Raymond Faitala-Mariner 3.
Off loads | Ben Matulino 4, Ryan Hoffman 4, Simon Mannering 3, Shaun Johnson 2.
Tackles | Nathan Friend 53, Bodene Thompson 37, Simon Mannering 32, Jacob Lillyman 27, Ryan Hoffman 26, Ben Matulino 23.
Missed tackles | Simon Mannering 0, Jacob Lillyman 0, Ryan Hoffman 0, Chad Townsend 0, Solomone Kata 0, Charlie Gubb 0, Raymond Faitala-Mariner 0, Albert Vete 0.
RECORD | v MELBOURNE STORM
Overall | Played 35, Vodafone Warriors 15, Storm 18, Drawn 2.
Away | Played 16, Vodafone Warriors 8, Storm 8.
150 NRL Games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 139th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors.
100 NRL Games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Shaun Johnson plays his 99th NRL match.
150 NRL Tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 146 tries in 208 games.
50 NRL Tries | Shaun Johnson 43, Konrad Hurrell 39.
MILESTONES ACHIEVED IN 2015
20th Anniversary | March 10, 2015 marked the 20th anniversary of the Vodafone Warriors making their debut in the competition against Brisbane on March 10, 1995.
50 NRL Games for Vodafone Warriors | Ben Henry made his 50th NRL appearance for the club on March 15 when he lined up against Canberra.
200 NRL Games | Nathan Friend made his 200th NRL appearance on March 21 when he lined up against Parramatta; it was his 65th game for the Vodafone Warriors after previously playing one game for Brisbane, 34 for Melbourne and 100 for Gold Coast.
Jacob Lillyman made his 200th NRL appearance on June 27 when he lined up against Canberra; it was his 138th game for the Vodafone Warriors after previously playing 62 games for North Queensland.
250 NRL Games | Ryan Hoffman made his 250th NRL appearance on April 6 when he lined up against his former club Melbourne; he played 245 games for Melbourne.
200 NRL Games for Vodafone Warriors | Manu Vatuvei made his 200th NRL appearance for the club against Wests Tigers on April 11; he is the third player to appear in 200 games for the Vodafone Warriors (the others being Stacey Jones and Simon Mannering).
10 NRL Seasons for Vodafone Warriors | When Sam Rapira made his 170th career appearance against the Titans on Anzac Day he became the seventh player to represent the Vodafone Warriors in 10 NRL seasons after Stacey Jones, Awen Guttenbeil, Lance Hohaia, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei and Simon Mannering).
200th Vodafone Warrior | Raymond Faitala-Mariner became the club’s 200th first-grade player when he made his debut against Gold Coast on Anzac Day.
500 Games in the NRL | The Vodafone Warriors’ match against Parramatta on May 16 was the club’s 500th in the competition since debuting in 1995.
100 NRL Games | Jonathan Wright made his 100th NRL appearance when he lined up against one of his former clubs Parramatta on May 16; it was his ninth game for the Vodafone Warriors after previously playing 12 games for Parramatta, 38 games for Canterbury-Bankstown and 41 games for Cronulla.
Bodene Thompson made his 100th NRL appearance when he lined up against Canberra on June 21 after previously playing 49 games for Gold Coast and 36 for Wests Tigers.
50 NRL Games | Chad Townsend made his 50th NRL appearance when he lined up against South Sydney on June 6; it was his 31st match for the Vodafone Warriors after previously playing 19 games for Cronulla.
10 Tries in 10 Consecutive Seasons | Manu Vatuvei’s try against the Sydney Roosters on June 6 completed the unprecedented feat of scoring 10 tries or more in 10 consecutive seasons (2006-2015).
500 Points in the NRL | Shaun Johnson passed 500 career points in the NRL on his way to scoring 20 points against Gold Coast on June 20; he is the fourth player to reach the mark for the Vodafone Warriors after Ivan Cleary, Stacey Jones and Manu Vatuvei).
VODAFONE WARRIORS v MELBOURNE STORM
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
4.00pm, Sunday, July 12
Referees: Gerard Sutton and Chris James
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
3 KONRAD HURRELL
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 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER
16 CHARLIE GUBB
17 ALBERT VETE
18 DAVID FUSITU’A
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN
BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ
Head to head | Vodafone Warriors $1.52, Melbourne $2.40
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 3.30pm (kick-off 4.00pm), Sunday, July 12