The depleted Vodafone Warriors face another major challenge when they take on Wests Tigers in today’s 25th-round NRL encounter at Campbelltown Sports Stadium today (2.00pm kick-off local time; 4.00pm NZT).
A measure of the scale of the challenge can be found in the front row where the Vodafone Warriors are without their three most experienced props Jacob Lillyman, Sam Rapira and Ben Matulino.
They boast more than 550 NRL appearances between them but Lillyman (cheekbone), Rapira (concussion) and Matulino (suspension) can only look on from home today as the Vodafone Warriors field the youngest and least experienced combination of front rowers in their history.
Starting prop Sebastine Ikahihifo (24) is the most seasoned in terms of NRL games but nearly all of his 37 appearances have been as a starting back rower or on the interchange. He has filled in at prop but has started there only once against Gold Coast in round 15.
The oldest of the three specialist props in the squad is Charlie Gubb (25) who is on the bench again for just his 15th first-grade match since his debut in 2013.
The other two are 2015 rookies Albert Vete and Sam Lisone. Vete (22) starts again today in what is his 20th NRL game while Lisone (21) is on the bench for his 18th NRL match.
Also on the interchange is back rower Sione Lousi (24), who has some experience playing in the front row.
As well as Lillyman, Rapira and Matulino the Vodafone Warriors will again be without a number of their other most experienced performers in long-term casualties Manu Vatuvei, Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai and Ben Henry along with Ngani Laumape, Glen Fisiiahi and David Fusitu’a.
Only three players are now set to appear in each of the Vodafone Warriors’ matches this year with captain Simon Mannering, hooker Nathan Friend and centre Solomone Kata making their 23rd straight appearances today. Mannering, Friend, Lillyman and Sam Tomkins were among the five players who appeared in all 24 games last year while Manu Vatuvei missed only one match.
Today’s visit is the Vodafone Warriors’ ninth to Campbelltown Sports Stadium. They played Western Suburbs there four times – winning two and losing two – and they have also taken on Wests Tigers four times at the venue with the same record.
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO | Front row experience is at an all-time low with Jacob Lillyman, Sam Rapira and Ben Matulino all unavailable forcing head coach Andrew McFadden to turn to utility Sebastine Ikahihifo to start at prop.
#2 MATT ALLWOOD | The former Canberra outside back has spent most of the season in the New South Wales Cup. He comes in on the left wing for just his second NRL appearance of the season after making his club debut against Brisbane in March.
#3 ALBERT VETE | NRL rookie Vete qualifies as the club’s senior front rower today, such is the depth of the injury crisis facing the Vodafone Warriors. He’ll be making just his 20th NRL appearance but no one in the squad today has played more times at prop.
#4 RYAN HOFFMAN | The vastly-experienced New South Wales Origin back rower again has the task of leading a slightly-modified Vodafone Warriors edge (Matt Allwood on the wing). It was put under a lot of defensive pressure by the Cowboys last week.
#5 SIMON MANNERING | The ever-consistent Mannering faces the prospect of another huge workload today. Last week he was called on to make 64 tackles and missed just one against the Cowboys in taking his season’s tally well past 1000 tackles.
TOP STATS | SATURDAY, AUGUST 22 | v COWBOYS | LOST 16-50
Penalties | Vodafone Warriors 8, Cowboys 10.
Completions | Vodafone Warriors 19/29 (66%), Cowboys 38/42 (91%).
Total runs | Vodafone Warriors 207, Cowboys 123.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors 1039, Cowboys 1843.
Dummy half runs (metres) | Vodafone Warriors 6 (58), Cowboys 12 (45).
Line breaks | Vodafone Warriors 2, Cowboys 8.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors 17, Cowboys 36.
Kicks (kicking metres) | Vodafone Warriors 12 (309), Cowboys 19 (478).
Tackles | Vodafone Warriors 382, Cowboys 241.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors 36, Cowboys 17.
Offloads | Vodafone Warriors 8, Cowboys 14.
Errors | Vodafone Warriors 11, Cowboys 4.
Runs | Ken Maumalo 12, Jonathan Wright 11, Simon Mannering 11, Ryan Hoffman 11.
Metres gained | Tuimoala Lolohea 119.
Tackle breaks | Tuimoala Lolohea 4.
Off loads | Simon Mannering 3. Cowboys: Ben Hannant 4.
Tackles | Simon Mannering 64, Nathan Friend 55, Albert Vete 38, Bodene Thompson 37, Dominique Peyroux 36, Charlie Gubb 30, Sione Lousi 27.
Missed tackles | Sam Lisone 0.
RECORD | v WESTS TIGERS
Overall | Played 24, Won 13, Lost 11.
At Campbelltown Sports Stadium | Played 8, Won 4, Lost 4 (v Wests Tigers | Played 4, Won 2, Lost 2).
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.
250 Home Games in NRL | The Vodafone Warriors played their 250th home game when they faced Cronulla on August 1. Their first 250 home games were split between Mount Smart Stadium (242), Eden Park (6) and Westpac Stadium (2). They won 143 games for a winning strike rate of just over 57.00 per cent.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v WESTS TIGERS
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Sydney
2.00pm, Sunday, August 30
Referees: Gavin Reynolds and Chris Sutton
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 MATT ALLWOOD
3 DOMINIQUE PEYROUX
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 JONATHAN WRIGHT
6 MASON LINO
7 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
8 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 ALBERT VETE
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN
13 SIMON MANNERING (c)
14 KONRAD HURRELL
15 SIONE LOUSI
16 CHARLIE GUBB
17 SAM LISONE
18 JOHN PALAVI
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN
1 JAMES TEDESCO
2 DAVID NOFOALUMA
3 KEVIN NAIQAMA
4 TIM SIMONA
5 PAT RICHARDS
6 MITCHELL MOSES
7 LUKE BROOKS
8 AARON WOODS
9 ROBBIE FARAH (c)
10 SAUASO SUE
11 CURTIS SIRONEN
12 CHRIS LAWRENCE
13 MARTIN TAUPAU
14 KYLE LOVETT
15 KEITH GALLOWAY
16 AVA SEUMANUFAGAI
17 DENE HALATAU
18 MANAIA CHERRINGTON
COACH: JASON TAYLOR
BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ
Head to head | Vodafone Warriors $1.40, Wests Tigers $2.80
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 3.30pm NZT (kick-off 4.00pm), Sunday, August 30