No late changes or positional reshuffles have been made to the Vodafone Warriors’ line-up for tonight’s Anzac Day eighth-round NRL clash against the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park (7.00pm kick-off local time; 9.00pm NZT).
Head coach Andrew McFadden has confirmed the same 17 as selected on Tuesday.
It features Tuimoala Lolohea at fullback and the vastly-experienced Thomas Leuluai in the halves in his first start of the season.
They both played 64 minutes in those roles against the Bulldogs last week following Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s devastating season-ending knee injury.
Another highlight is the return of veteran left wing Manu Vatuvei from a two-match absence with a hamstring injury. He needs two more tries to become only the 11th player to score 150 tries in the competition’s history (and to also bring up 600 points in his career).
Also eyeing 600 career points is halfback Shaun Johnson who needs only four more to reach the mark. Stacey Jones is the only player who has scored 600-plus points in the Vodafone Warriors’ history to date.
With Vatuvei back, utility Jonathan Wright moves to the bench alongside forwards Jacob Lillyman (174 metres against the Bulldogs), Charlie Gubb and Ligi Sao. In his third game of the season, Wright picked up his second try of the campaign on a night when he was one of 11 Vodafone Warriors to make 100 metres plus (118 from 13 runs).
Tonight’s occasion has special meaning for Gubb, who’s lining up in an Anzac Day match for the first time in his NRL career. He spoke this week of honouring his late grandfather Laurence Gubb, who served in 6th Field Ambulance of the 25th Battalion in World War II.
The match marks the return of the Anzac Day tradition for the two sides after it was temporarily shelved last season when the NRL marked the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings with five back-to-back Anzac Day matches in Auckland, Newcastle, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane; the Vodafone Warriors hosted Gold Coast.
Now they resume their poignant rivalry at AAMI Park for the seventh Anzac Day clash between the sides dating back to 2009. The Vodafone Warriors won the most recent one in 2014 and also won in 2011 while the inaugural match was drawn 14-14.
The Vodafone Warriors lost the last contest between the two sides in the third round in March, handing back the Michael Moore Trophy which is again at stake tonight.
In 37 matches since 1998 the Vodafone Warriors have won 16, lost 19 and drawn two.
Vatuvei will be lining up against the Storm for the 16th time having been in the winning side six times while experiencing one draw and eight losses; he has scored 11 tries in those matches.
The Vodafone Warriors go into the match with three wins in their last four matches while the Storm, sitting on 10 points, have had two wins and two losses in their last four games.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v MELBOURNE STORM
AAMI Park, Melbourne
7.00pm, Monday, April 25
Referees: Matt Cecchin and Gavin Reynolds
1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
2 DAVID FUSITU’A
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 THOMAS LEULUAI
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 SAM LISONE
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN (c)
13 SIMON MANNERING
14 JONATHAN WRIGHT
15 JACOB LILLYMAN
16 CHARLIE GUBB
17 LIGI SAO
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN