Sam Lisone returns from injury and Konrad Hurrell joins him on the bench for the Vodafone Warriors’ fourth-round NRL encounter with the Newcastle Knights at Mount Smart Stadium on Monday (4.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: SKYCITY).
After missing last Sunday’s loss to Melbourne with a minor shoulder injury, Lisone will make his 22nd career appearance while Hurrell is set to play his first NRL match this year and the 69th of his career.
With veterans Manu Vatuvei and Issac Luke still on the injured list, Jonathan Wright is again on the left wing and Jazz Tevaga starts at hooker, the latter backing up after his impressive debut in the 14-21 loss to Melbourne on Sunday.
Becoming Vodafone Warrior #209 after his late call-up the day before the game, the Papakura Sea Eagles junior played 59 minutes, ran seven times for 43 metres and made 33 tackles with just one miss.
Hurrell, named on an extended bench last week, comes onto the interchange for the injured Nathaniel Roache (ankle) after appearing for the club’s Intrust Super Premiership side in the first three weeks of the season.
“Sam was very good for us off the bench in the first two rounds only to miss last week’s match with injury,” said Vodafone Warriors assistant coach Justin Morgan.
“Konrad has been playing for our second team working on making some improvements in his game and now earns his chance.
“With Manu out, Jono slotted straight back in for us last week while Jazz did a terrific job coming in for Issac. It was a massive effort from him playing 60 minutes on debut.”
Morgan said there were again encouraging signs despite the loss to Storm.
“To come back and take the lead against a tough side like Melbourne was a real positive although we couldn’t close it out,” he said.
“There were good aspects in the way our defence is improving and we’re slowly getting there with combinations but there are errors in our game that we need to eliminate.”
The Vodafone Warriors face a Newcastle side which has found some confidence after a grim start to the season which saw it lose 12-30 to Gold Coast and 6-48 to South Sydney.
The Knights rebounded with a 24-24 extra-time draw with unbeaten Canberra on Saturday, coming desperately close to a shock victory in regulation time.
There’s not much between the Vodafone Warriors and Newcastle historically, the record showing 16 wins for the Vodafone Warriors and 17 for the Knights – with one draw – since they first met in 1995.
At home the Vodafone Warriors have a 10-8 winning edge while they have won nine of the last 10 clashes at Mount Smart Stadium since 2006.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
4.00pm, Monday, March 28
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK
2 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 JONATHAN WRIGHT
6 SHAUN JOHNSON
7 JEFF ROBSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 JAZZ TEVAGA
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN (c)
13 SIMON MANNERING
14 CHARLIE GUBB
15 SAM LISONE
16 KONRAD HURRELL
17 ALBERT VETE
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN