Internationals and Origin representatives fill almost every position in the Sydney Roosters’ starting line-up for Sunday's highly-anticipated 19th-round NRL clash against the Vodafone Warriors at Allianz Stadium on Sunday (2.00pm kick-off local time; 4.00pm NZT).
Hooker Jake Friend, prop Dylan Napa and second rower Mitchell Aubusson are the only players among the run-on side named who haven’t appeared at Origin level or for the Kiwis or the Kangaroos (although Friend and Napa have been close to getting a Queensland call-up).
Around them are Kiwi internationals in fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, wing Shaun Kenny-Dowall and prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves plus wing Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings, Blake Ferguson, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Boyd Cordner and Aidan Guerra who have all played Origin; Tupou, Jennings, Cordner and Guerra have also represented the Kangaroos. They also have Kiwi front rower Sam Moa on the bench.
They come into the 19th round holding outright third spot on 24 points with the Vodafone Warriors alone in fourth place on 22 points. Until this week, the Vodafone Warriors had spent just three weeks in the top four in total since 2007 (one week in 2009, 2010 and 2011).
Their win against Melbourne last Sunday was their third on end after beating Gold Coast on June 20 and Canberra on June 27, their second three-game winning streak so far this season and their sixth win in their last eight games. In the last three games the Vodafone Warriors have amassed 94 points while conceding only 36.
The Roosters are on a four-game winning run which started with their last-minute 25-21 victory over the Vodafone Warriors on June 13 (just before the second State of Origin game). Since then they have beaten St George Illawarra 19-14, Gold Coast 20-10 and Penrith 24-4, scoring a total of 88 points and conceding just 49.
In 34 encounters between the two clubs since the first in 1995 – when the Warriors won 26-22 – the overall count favours the Vodafone Warriors 18-15 with a 31-31 draw in 2007. In 16 meetings in Sydney, the Vodafone Warriors have an 8-7 advantage plus the draw.
The last Sydney encounter between the two sides was in 2013 when the Vodafone Warriors had a 23-12 victory.
A key feature on Sunday is Shaun Johnson’s graduation as the 23rd player to appear in 100 NRL matches for the Vodafone Warriors. The first was the legendary Stacey Jones in 1999 while the 22nd was Jacob Lillyman in the final game of the 2013 season. In a coincidence Johnson also made his debut against the Roosters at the same ground in 2011.
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 SHAUN JOHNSON | Another huge game and a red letter day for the playmaker in a season already boasting a number of highlights, not least against the Storm last week when he relished the opportunities created by the forwards’ impressive efforts in the middle of the park.
#2 DAVID FUSITU’A | Still only 20, Fusitu’a displayed his range of skills against the Storm in just his second NRL outing of the season. He faces another massive challenge on Sunday marking up against New South Wales and Kangaroos centre Michael Jennings.
#3 NATHAN FRIEND | He generated a social media frenzy globally with his game-changing acrobatic feat against the Storm. For all that, the ultra-reliable workhorse will need all the typical grit he can muster against the Roosters’ middle men this week.
#4 BEN MATULINO | In a great contest, Matulino measured up to and edged his fellow Kiwi front rower Jesse Bromwich in the win over the Storm last Sunday. It’s Kiwi on Kiwi again in the middle this week when Matulino clashes with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
#5 BODENE THOMPSON | The Tauranga-born Thompson is a key component in a right edge thriving on attack. Combining well with Shaun Johnson he’s the leading try-scorer among the forwards with six while also being one of the team’s busiest defenders.
TOP STATS | SUNDAY, JULY 12 v MELBOURNE STORM | WON 28-14
Penalties | Vodafone Warriors 6, Melbourne 5.
Completions | Vodafone Warriors 23/34 (68), Melbourne 26/34 (77%).
Total runs | Vodafone Warriors 159, Melbourne 160.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors 1484, Melbourne 1297.
Dummy half runs (metres) | Vodafone Warriors 11 (91), Melbourne 12 (79).
Line breaks | Vodafone Warriors 7, Melbourne 2.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors 28, Melbourne 15.
Kicks (kicking metres) | Vodafone Warriors 13 (273), Melbourne 18 (399).
Tackles | Vodafone Warriors 324, Melbourne 290.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors 15, Melbourne 28.
Offloads | Vodafone Warriors 10, Melbourne 9.
Errors | Vodafone Warriors 11, Melbourne 9.
Runs | Shaun Johnson 15, Ben Matulino 15, Simon Mannering 13, David Fusitu’a 12, Solomone Kata 12, Sam Tomkins 12, Tuimoala Lolohea 10, Jonathan Wright 10, Jacob Lillyman 10.
Metres gained | Shaun Johnson 213, Ben Matulino 132, Tuimoala Lolohea 130, David Fusitu’a 125, Solomone Kata 102.
Off loads | Simon Mannering 4, Ben Matulino 2.
Tackle breaks | Shaun Johnson 8, Bodene Thompson 6, Solomone Kata 5, Tuimoala Lolohea 4.
Tackles | Simon Mannering 43, Bodene Thompson 39, Nathan Friend 34, Raymond Faitala-Mariner 25, Jacob Lillyman 24, Ben Matulino 22, Charlie Gubb 20.
Missed tackles | Bodene Thompson 0, Raymond Faitala-Mariner 0, Albert Vete 0, Shaun Johnson 0, Charlie Gubb 0, Siliva Havili 0, Sione Lousi 0.
RECORD | v SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Overall | Played 34, Vodafone Warriors 18, Roosters 15, Drawn 1.
Away | Played 16, Vodafone Warriors 8, Roosters 7, Drawn 1.
150 NRL Games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 140th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors.
100 NRL Games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Shaun Johnson plays his 100th NRL match.
150 NRL Tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 146 tries in 208 games.
50 NRL Tries | Shaun Johnson 44, Konrad Hurrell 39.
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 | When Manu Vatuvei scored against the Sydney Roosters on June 6, he 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 SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
2.00pm, Sunday, July 19
Referees: Matt Cecchin and Grant Atkins
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
3 DAVID FUSITU’A
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 JONATHAN WRIGHT
6 CHAD TOWNSEND
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER
13 SIMON MANNERING (c)
14 SILIVA HAVILI
15 SIONE LOUSI
16 CHARLIE GUBB
17 ALBERT VETE
18 SAM RAPIRA
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK
2 DANIEL TUPOU
3 MICHAEL JENNINGS
4 BLAKE FERGUSON
5 SHAUN KENNY-DOWALL
6 JAMES MALONEY
7 MITCHELL PEARCE (c)
8 JARED WAEREA-HARGREAVES
9 JAKE FRIEND (c)
10 DYLAN NAPA
11 BOYD CORDNER
12 MITCHELL AUBUSSON
13 AIDAN GUERRA
14 SAM MOA
15 ISAAC LIU
16 KANE EVANS
17 SIOSIUA TAUKEIAHO
18 JACKSON HASTINGS
COACH: TRENT ROBINSON
BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ
Head to head | Sydney Roosters $1.33, Vodafone Warriors $3.10
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 3.30pm (kick-off 4.00pm NZT), Sunday, July 19