Beware the wounded Sydney Roosters is bound to be the catch cry as the Vodafone Warriors eye Sunday’s fifth-round NRL encounter at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford (2.00pm kick-off local time; 4.00pm NZT).
While the Vodafone Warriors surged to their first win of the season beating Newcastle 40-18 on Monday, the Roosters have lost their first four starts.
Their most recent was a heart breaker when they fell 20-22 to Manly on Saturday and they were also pipped 21-20 by Canberra in round two.
Either side of those contests the Roosters were trounced 42-10 by South Sydney and 40-0 by North Queensland leaving them the only team with four losses so far this season.
On Sunday the Vodafone Warriors will confront them boasting excitement machine Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who lit the Roosters up with a stellar contribution last season.
As well as Tuivasa-Sheck, the Roosters have lost Michael Jennings (Parramatta) and James Maloney (Cronulla) from their 2015 squad.
They’ve also been missing halfback Mitchell Pearce (suspended) and the injured Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Boyd Cordner but are still able to call on ample experience and ability in the likes of Daniel Tupou, Blake Ferguson, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Sam Moa, Jake Friend, Aidan Guerra and Mitchell Aubusson as well as the highly-regarded Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Dylan Napa, Jackson Hastings, Jayden Nikorima and Lattrell Mitchell.
In the two clashes between the clubs last year the Roosters won on both occasions and they’ve won six of the last eight times they’ve met.
Historically, though, the Vodafone Warriors have a solid record against the Roosters, their third best among all current NRL clubs behind South Sydney and Gold Coast.
Of the 35 matches, they’ve won 18, drawn one and lost 16 while in away games the record is even at 8-8 with one drawn.
The Roosters are far more familiar with Gosford as a venue having played there 11 times, although they’ve won on only four occasions. The Vodafone Warriors have a win and a loss in their only two outings there.
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK | Just five games into his Vodafone Warriors career, the hot-stepping metre-eater runs into his former Sydney Roosters club and team-mates, only it’s not at his old home ground but instead in Gosford on the Central Coast.
#2 JACOB LILLYMAN | It’s another big day for the man they call ‘Bull’ as he reaches a milestone achieved by only one other Australian player for the Vodafone Warriors (150 games for the club). He draws level with fellow North Queenslander Micheal Luck.
#3 ISSAC LUKE | After missing the Melbourne match with injury, Luke made a try-scoring appearance in his first home game for the Vodafone Warriors last week. In 55 minutes he made nine runs for 60 metres, had eight tackle breaks and made 21 tackles.
#4 MANU VATUVEI | ‘The Beast’ made a huge impact against the Knights in his return from a one-game injury-enforced absence. He produced a dozen high-quality carries gaining 116 metres, mostly out of defence, scored his 147th career try and had another ruled out.
#5 BLAKE AYSHFORD | The experienced ex-Wests Tigers and Cronulla centre impressed against Newcastle with his first try for the club, a try assist, almost 100 metres gained, three off loads, two tackle breaks, eight tackles, no missed tackles and no errors.