Glen Fisiiahi is set for his first NRL appearance in more than 15 months after being named on the wing for the Vodafone Warriors’ 20th-round game against Manly at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday (5.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Red Bull; game day theme: #NRLHeritage).
The 24-year-old speedster’s 2014 season ended with a shoulder injury against Cronulla on April 5 last year, a week after he’d scored four tries in the club’s victory over Wests Tigers.
After recovering from surgery Fisiiahi made a try-scoring return in the Vodafone Warriors’ New South Wales Cup side against Penrith in mid-April this year only to have his comeback disrupted by a knee complaint in his next outing.
Since recovering from that setback Fisiiahi has scored four tries in three winning appearances for the club’s table-topping New South Wales Cup side to earn his recall.
In 28 NRL matches since his debut in 2011, Fisiiahi has scored 15 tries and had seven in the first five rounds of the 2014 season before his campaign ended.
He comes onto the right wing for Tuimoala Lolohea, who moves into the centres for the injured David Fusitu’a (knee) while Konrad Hurrell is out of contention after picking up a one-match suspension for a dangerous contact offence in his return from injury in Saturday’s 24-22 NSW Cup win over Illawarra.
Also not considered were veterans Manu Vatuvei (shoulder) and Ryan Hoffman (calf); Vatuvei is expected to return for the round 22 match against the Dragons in Wellington on August 8 while it’s hoped Hoffman will be available to face the Sharks at Mount Smart Stadium in round 21 (August 1).
While head coach Andrew McFadden has recalled Fisiiahi and switched Lolohea, the rest of the starting line-up is unchanged from last Sunday’s loss to the Sydney Roosters. McFadden has also named the same four players used on the interchange while adding prop Sam Lisone, who comes up from the NSW Cup side after appearing in 13 NRL matches earlier in his rookie year.
The Vodafone Warriors slipped to seventh on the ladder after their 0-24 loss to the Roosters while Manly’s 12-30 reverse against North Queensland last night leaves it in 13th spot on 16 points after 19 rounds.
Despite the relative positions on the table, the Sea Eagles have been one of the Vodafone Warriors’ most difficult opponents in their 20-year history. They’ve won only eight of 26 matches against Manly and just three out of 12 at Mount Smart Stadium.
Their last win was at Mount Smart Stadium in 2013, their only success in their last nine outings against the Sea Eagles.
The Vodafone Warriors won’t want for special support in the first of three consecutive home games with more than 40 former players expected to be in attendance for the club’s annual old boys’ day. Locally-based players attending include Duane Mann, Jerry Seuseu, Stacey Jones, Ruben Wiki, Steve Price, Awen Guttenbeil, Monty Betham, Logan Swann, Jerome Ropati, Wairangi Koopu, Tony Tuimavave, Francis Meli, Joe Vagana, Wade McKinnon, Brent Webb, Henry Fa’afili and Tony Tatupu while Jason Death, Scott Coxon, Robbie Mears, Mark Tookey, Nigel Vagana, Justin Murphy, John Simon, Mark Horo, Grant Young and Sione Faumuina are among those travelling from Australia.
The heritage game day programme will again feature a triple header programme with the NYC clash between the two clubs kicking off at 12.40pm and the Vodafone Warriors and Manly meeting in the NSW Cup match at 2.40pm.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v MANLY SEA EAGLES
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
5.00pm, Saturday, July 25
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 GLEN FISIIAHI
3 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
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 SAM RAPIRA
17 ALBERT VETE
18 SAM LISONE
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN