Front rowers Albert Vete and Charlie Gubb will make their first NRL appearances of the season for the Vodafone Warriors in their highly-anticipated third-round clash against Melbourne at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday (4.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Vodafone).
The contest, the club’s first home game of the year after back-to-back away trips, will be the third leg of a tripleheader starting with the Intrust Super Premiership clash between the Vodafone Warriors and Newtown (11.45am kick-off) followed by the NYC encounter between the Vodafone Junior Warriors and the Storm (1.45pm kick-off).
Gubb comes onto the bench for his 16th career appearance after serving a suspension hanging over from late last year while 2015 NRL rookie Vete, who played for the ISP side in their 44-6 win against Wests Tigers last Saturday, will appear in his 22nd game replacing the injured Sam Lisone (shoulder).
“While Charlie has been sidelined he was able to play in our trials and has been training the place down,” said Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden.
“He’s a special person who brings so much enthusiasm and energy to the side.
“Albie was really impressive for our reserves last week, played some big minutes and has earned the chance to come onto the interchange.
“It gives us three front rowers on the bench along with James Gavet. It’s quite a balance getting it right with the interchange now but we have three back rowers who are all 80-minutes players while Ben (Matulino) can play a lot of time as well.”
Matulino has been named after the club indicated it will defend a grade one shoulder charge he landed after the Vodafone Warriors’ 10-25 loss to Brisbane last Friday night.
Also listed are experienced wing Manu Vatuvei (ribs) and centre Blake Ayshford (concussion). McFadden is hopeful both will be cleared to play but he has named Jonathan Wright and Konrad Hurrell as cover on an extended bench which also includes back rower John Palavi.
The Vodafone Warriors will be defending the Michael Moore Trophy they reclaimed in a memorable 28-14 victory at Mount Smart Stadium in July last year.
Front rower Jacob Lillyman this week moves within two appearances of his 150th NRL appearance for the club when he makes his 148th appearance (his 210th overall).
This will be the 37th clash between the sides with little separating them since their first meeting in 1998. The Vodafone Warriors have 16 wins, Melbourne 18, with two drawn.
In the 17 encounters at Mount Smart Stadium, the Vodafone Warriors have a 9-8 edge.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v MELBOURNE STORM
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
4.00pm, Sunday, March 20
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK
2 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 SHAUN JOHNSON
7 JEFF ROBSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN (c)
13 SIMON MANNERING
14 NATHANIEL ROACHE
15 CHARLIE GUBB
16 JAMES GAVET
17 ALBERT VETE
18 JOHN PALAVI
21 JONATHAN WRIGHT
23 KONRAD HURRELL
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN