Home game No 250 beckons for the Vodafone Warriors when they face the Cronulla Sharks in today’s 21st-round NRL game at Mount Smart Stadium (5.00pm kick-off; game day theme: Sir Peter Leitch Appreciation Day; match day sponsor: DEWALT).
The total comprises 241 games at Mount Smart Stadium (including three home finals), six at Eden Park and two at Westpac Stadium.
Combined they have so far netted 143 victories equating to a winning strike rate approaching 58 per cent.
Nine of those wins have come against the Sharks, all of them at Mount Smart Stadium with the most recent a 16-12 success on August 10 last year.
Of note was the fact the Vodafone Warriors were without halfback Shaun Johnson for that match, as they will be today. Until now it was one of only three games he had missed from a possible 66 since the start of the 2013 season.
A groin injury sidelined him for three straight matches against Manly, Canberra and Cronulla. Without him the Vodafone Warriors lost to Manly 12-22 at home, beat Canberra 54-18 away and then accounted for the Sharks.
Johnson will be watching from home today as he recovers from season-ended ankle surgery. Wearing the No 7 jersey for the first time will be Tuimoala Lolohea, no stranger to the halves in his NYC career or playing for the club’s New South Wales Cup side.
His 21st NRL career game underlines his versatility; he has already started in every other backline position. Not only will he be filling Johnson’s spot but he’s also likely to again have the goal kicking duties as he did against Manly last week when he kicked two from two.
Victory today over Cronulla, currently sitting sixth on 24 points, would enable the eighth-ranked Vodafone Warriors to take over that sixth spot on the ladder, pushing the Sharks down to seventh and the Bulldogs to eighth.
While the on-field focus is firmly fixed on ending a two-match losing streak to revive the club’s finals hopes, the major interest off the field is the Sir Peter Leitch Appreciation Day being held in honour of the man who never stops giving to the club and the game overall. A number of Mad Butcher-related features including big screen video tributes will be among the day’s highlights.
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA | The 20-year-old, still eligible for the NYC and still an NRL rookie, faces special attention today as he steps into the halves for the injured Shaun Johnson. He’s a precocious talent who provides plenty of X factor in his game.
#2 MANU VATUVEI | The big man on the left wing makes a welcome return after being out for a month with a shoulder injury. Aside from his try-scoring ability the Vodafone Warriors have missed the value he delivers with his selfless ball carries.
#3 THE INTERCHANGE | The bench is packed with young players who will provide significant energy and aggression. Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Sam Lisone are NRL rookies while Siliva Havili and Charlie Gubb have played only a limited number of NRL games.
#4 KONRAD HURRELL | Hurrell’s on and off season is on again with his return from a one-game suspension. The power-running centre needs to find his mojo immediately to give his team the energy injection which is a feature of his game.
#5 SIMON MANNERING AND BEN MATULINO | With Bodene Thompson and Ryan Hoffman injured, Mannering and Matulino line up on the edges in tandem for the first time this season. They started as a back row combination with good effect several times last year.
TOP STATS | SATURDAY, JULY 25 v SEA EAGLES | LOST 12-32
Penalties | Vodafone Warriors 10, Sea Eagles 8.
Completions | Vodafone Warriors 28/40 (70%), Sea Eagles 36/43 (84%).
Total runs | Vodafone Warriors 151, Sea Eagles 173.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors 1162, Sea Eagles 1573.
Dummy half runs (metres) | Vodafone Warriors 6 (56), Sea Eagles 7 (49).
Line breaks | Vodafone Warriors 3, Sea Eagles 4.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors 23, Sea Eagles 34.
Kicks (kicking metres) | Vodafone Warriors 17 (460), Sea Eagles (433).
Tackles | Vodafone Warriors 349, Sea Eagles 265.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors 34, Sea Eagles 23.
Offloads | Vodafone Warriors 17, Sea Eagles 9.
Errors | Vodafone Warriors 9, Sea Eagles 9.
Runs | Jacob Lillyman 18, Ben Matulino 16, Simon Mannering 15, Tuimoala Lolohea 13, Albert Vete 12, Solomone Kata 11, Jonathan Wright 11, Raymond Faitala-Mariner 10, Glen Fisiiahi 10.
Metres gained | Jacob Lillyman 145, Ben Matulino 129, Albert Vete 119, Jonathan Wright 105.
Tackle breaks | Solomone Kata 3, Chad Townsend 3, Shaun Johnson 3, Albert Vete 3.
Off loads | Ben Matulino 5.
Tackles | Simon Mannering 56, Nathan Friend 36, Ben Matulino 35, Bodene Thompson 34, Sione Lousi 29, Chad Townsend 23, Albert Vete 22, Jacob Lillyman 20.
Missed tackles | Ben Matulino 0, Bodene Thompson 0, Raymond Faitala-Mariner 0, Siliva Havili 0, Shaun Johnson 0, Jonathan Wright 0.
RECORD | v CRONULLA
Overall | Played 34, Won 16, Lost 18.
Home | Played 15, Won 9, Lost 6.
MILESTONES WATCH 2015
150 NRL Games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 142st NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors.
150 NRL Tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 146 tries in 208 games.
50 NRL Tries | Konrad Hurrell 39.
250 Home Games in NRL | The Vodafone Warriors play their 250th home game when they face Cronulla today. Their 249 games so far have been split between Mount Smart Stadium (241), Eden Park (6) and Westpac Stadium (2). They have won 143 games for winning strike rate of 57.42 per cent.
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 (all 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).
100 NRL Games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Shaun Johnson made his 100th NRL appearance when he lined up against the Sydney Roosters on July 19.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v CRONULLA SHARKS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
5.00pm, Saturday, August 01
Referees: Ben Cummins and Gavin Morris
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 KEN MAUMALO
3 KONRAD HURRELL
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 CHAD TOWNSEND
7 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 ALBERT VETE
11 BEN MATULINO
12 SIMON MANNERING (c)
13 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
14 SILIVA HAVILI
15 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER
16 CHARLIE GUBB
17 SAM LISONE
18 SIONE LOUSI
21 JONATHAN WRIGHT
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN
1 MICHAEL GORDON
2 SOSAIA FEKI
3 GERARD BEALE
4 RICKY LEUTELE
5 VALENTINE HOLMES
6 JACK BIRD
7 JEFF ROBSON
8 CHRIS HEIGHINGTON
9 MICHAEL ENNIS
10 SAM TAGATAESE
11 ANTHONY TUPOU
12 WADE GRAHAM
13 PAUL GALLEN (c)
14 BEN BARBA
15 MATT PRIOR
16 TINIRAU ARONA
17 JAYSON BUKUYA
21 JUNIOR ROQICA
COACH: SHANE FLANAGAN
BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ
Head to head | Vodafone Warriors $1.87, Cronulla Sharks $1.87
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 4.30pm (kick-off 5.00pm), Saturday, August 01