A 50th milestone appearance, a first-grade debut and a first NRL appearance for the club are in the offing for the Vodafone Warriors in their ninth-round encounter with St George Illawarra on Sunday (2.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Flava).
Utility forward Sione Lousi started his NRL career as a 20-year-old back as long ago as the first round of the 2010 season.
More than six years later he makes his 50th appearance this Sunday after making a belated return following wrist surgery in the offseason.
Big prop Toafofoa Sipley had an outstanding NYC career and was set to advance his career in 2015 when he was called up for his New South Wales Cup debut. It ended disastrously with a serious knee injury sidelining him for the rest of the season.
The 21-year-old made his playing return in the Intrust Super Premiership (formerly the NSW Cup) on April 3 and has since played another two games for the side against North Sydney and Newcastle. On Sunday he will become Vodafone Warrior #212 when he makes his NRL debut.
Former Canterbury-Bankstown back rower Shaun Lane (21), signed earlier this month, will make his Vodafone Warriors NRL debut after 14 first-grade appearances for the Bulldogs last year. He has featured in the ISP team’s last two outings against North Sydney and Newcastle.
While Lane was originally named on Tuesday in the side to face the Dragons, Lousi and Sipley were among the new players drafted in after original selections Manu Vatuvei, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson, Sam Lisone and Albert Vete were subsequently ruled out of the NRL side.
Also brought in were back rower John Palavi and centre-wing Matt Allwood who, like Lousi and Sipley, have been performing consistently well for the ISP side.
While the circumstances are difficult, the call-up is reward for the patient Palavi, the club’s former NYC captain who has also been leading the reserve grade side.
Now 23, Palavi was selected for his first NRL appearances in the opening round of the 2014 season but hasn’t been used again since until now although he has been called on as 18th man from time to time.
Allwood, who joined the Vodafone Warriors last year, was used only three times (and scored three tries) in 2015 after 11 appearances for Canberra in 2014.
The focus will be on those five players after a trying week for the Vodafone Warriors which has seen them not only fall 0-42 to Melbourne but also lose a host of their first-choice players.
Hard on the heels of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s season-ending knee injury they’re without the injured Simon Mannering and Tuimoala Lolohea as well as the relegated Vatuvei, Matulino, Thompson, Lisone and Vete while Konrad Hurrell has also been ruled out of contention. The absence of those nine players means the Vodafone Warriors have been stripped of a combined total of more than 1000 NRL appearances for the encounter with the Dragons.
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 JACOB LILLYMAN | With the changes made to the originally-named team, the veteran prop carries an extra load as the only experienced front rower in the line-up to face the Dragons. He’s back in the starting line-up after recently being used from the bench.
#2 SHAUN LANE | The 198cm back rower has worked his way into the side after two impressive games for the club’s Intrust Super Premiership team. He had an outstanding 2015 when he was named Canterbury-Bankstown’s NRL rookie of the year.
#3 MATT ALLWOOD & JOHN PALAVI | Consistent performers for the ISP side, Allwood and Palavi earn NRL recalls in challenging circumstances. Allwood has played only three times for the club, Palavi just twice back at the start of the 2014 season.
#4 SIONE LOUSI | A milestone day comes up for the utility forward as he makes his 50th career appearance more than six years since his debut in the opening round of the 2010 season. One of four replacement players called in after original choices were stood down.
#5 TOAFOFOA SIPLEY | Just 21, Sipley is built in the mould of big front rowers. After suffering a horrific knee injury last year, he returned with the ISP side just a few weeks ago and has now been handed the opportunity to make his debut as Vodafone Warrior #212.
TOP STATS | v MELBOURNE STORM | LOST 0-42
Penalties | Vodafone Warriors 4, Melbourne 6.
Completions | Vodafone Warriors 21/30 (70%), Melbourne 36/44 (82%).
Total runs | Vodafone Warriors 165, Melbourne 198.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors 1483, Melbourne 2042.
Dummy half runs (metres) | Vodafone Warriors 5 (42), Melbourne 8 (55).
Line breaks | Vodafone Warriors 7, Melbourne 0.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors 16, Melbourne 26.
Kicks (kicking metres) | Vodafone Warriors 19 (424), Melbourne 20 (520).
Tackles Made | Vodafone Warriors 365, Melbourne 298.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors 26, Melbourne 16.
Offloads | Vodafone Warriors 8, Melbourne 8.
Errors | Vodafone Warriors 8, Melbourne 7.
Runs | Vodafone Warriors: David Fusitu’a 15, Jacob Lillyman 14, Thomas Leuluai 13, Ben Matulino 13, Manu Vatuvei 12, Shaun Johnson 12, Bodene Thompson 11, Ryan Hoffman 11, Jonathan Wright 10, Sam Lisone 10. Melbourne: Tohu Harris 22, Cameron Munster 21, Tim Glasby 16, Marika Koroibete 15, Jesse Bromwich 15, Dale Finucane 14, Kevin Proctor 14. Kenny Bromwich 14, Jordan McLean 10.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors: David Fusitu’a 164, Manu Vatuvei 145, Bodene Thompson 123, Jacob Lillyman 113, Ben Matulino 109, Ryan Hoffman 105. Melbourne: Tohu Harris 228, Cameron Munster 212, Marika Koroibete 183, Dale Finucane 161, Tim Glasby 147, Jesse Bromwich 142, Kenny Bromwich 141, Kevin Proctor 127, Nelson Asofa-Solomona 120, Richard Kennar 113, Jordan McLean 102.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors: Tuimoala Lolohea 7, Blake Ayshford 4, Solomone Kata 4. Canterbury-Bankstown: Sam Perrett 5, James Graham 3.
Off loads | Vodafone Warriors: Solomone Kata 4. Melbourne: Cameron Munster 6, Tim Glasby 4.
Tackles made | Vodafone Warriors: Bodene Thompson 49, Issac Luke 47, Jacob Lillyman 36, Ben Matulino 35, Simon Mannering 31, Ryan Hoffman 29, Blake Ayshford 27, Sam Lisone 24, Shaun Johnson 21, Charlie Gubb 20H. Melbourne: Cameron Smith 36, Dale Finucane 31, Kevin Proctor 30, Tohu Harris 26, Jesse Bromwich 24, Jordan McLean 22.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors: Blake Ayshford 0, Ligi Sao 0, Jonathan Wright 0. Melbourne: Tohu Harris 0, Jesse Bromwich 0, Kevin Proctor 0, Jordan McLean 0, Kenny Bromwich 0, Ben Hampton 0, Marika Koroibete 0, Suliasi Vunivalu 0.
Supports | Vodafone Warriors: Thomas Leuluai 11, Shaun Johnson 10. Melbourne: Blake Green 26, Richard Kennar 10.
Decoys | Vodafone Warriors: Simon Mannering 9, Jacob Lillyman 9. Melbourne: Dale Finucane 15, Jesse Bromwich 14.
RECORD | v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA
Overall Record | Played 23, Vodafone Warriors 4, St George Illawaraa 19.
Home | Played 11, Vodafone Warriors 3, St George Illawarra 8.
At Mount Smart Stadium | Played 9, Vodafone Warriors 3, St George Illawarra 6.
Vodafone Warriors debuts | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (#203), Blake Ayshford (#204), Jeff Robson (#205), Issac Luke (#206), Nathaniel Roache (#207) and James Gavet (#208) made their debuts for the Vodafone Warriors against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium on March 5 (Round 1).
Jazz Tevaga (#209) made his club debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Melbourne at Mount Smart Stadium on March 20 (Round 3).
Ligi Sao #210) made his club debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Canterbury-Bankstown at Westpac Stadium on April 16 (Round 7).
NRL debut | Nathaniel Roache made his NRL debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium on March 5 (Round 1).
Jazz Tevaga (#209) made his NRL debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Melbourne at Mount Smart Stadium on March 20 (Round 3).
Most NRL appearances for Vodafone Warriors | Simon Mannering played his 244th NRL game last week (Stacey Jones’ record is 261).
250 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Simon Mannering played his 244th NRL game last week.
200 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Ben Matulino played his 181st NRL game last week.
200 NRL games (overall) | Issac Luke plays his 196th NRL game (his eighth for the Vodafone Warriors) after appearing in 188 matches for South Sydney.
150 NRL games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 154th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors this week, the 216th of his career including 62 for North Queensland (record for the most games for the club by an Australian player).
150 NRL games (overall) | Blake Ayshford plays his 133rd NRL game (his ninth for the Vodafone Warriors) after appearing in 104 for Wests Tigers and 20 for Cronulla.
50 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Sione Lousi plays his 49th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors; Tuimoala Lolohea has played 34 NRL games for the Vodafone Warriors; Solomone Kata plays his 33rd consecutive game for the Vodafone Warriors since his debut in 2015.
150 NRL tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 148 tries in 215 NRL appearances. Only 10 players in history have scored 150 tries in the competition. Vatuvei is 11th-equal on the all-time list, just behind the great Bob Fulton (147). The only current players ahead of him are Billy Slater (172 in 278 games) and Brett Stewart (163 in 228 games).
10 tries or more in a season | Manu Vatuvei has the all-time NRL record having scored 10 tries or more in 10 consecutive seasons from 2006-2015.
600 NRL points | Shaun Johnson has scored 596 points; Manu Vatuvei has scored 592 points.
500 NRL points | Issac Luke has scored 426 points.
50 NRL tries | Shaun Johnson has 49 tries; Konrad Hurrell has 41 tries; Issac Luke has 39 tries; Blake Ayshford has 38 tries; Jonathan Wright has 34 tries.
50 NRL games as NRL coach (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Andrew McFadden coaches the Vodafone Warriors for the 52nd time.
250 games at Mount Smart Stadium | The Vodafone Warriors will play their 247th game at Mount Smart Stadium (244th regular season game plus three home finals).
2000 tries in the NRL | 1943 (1995-2016)
VODAFONE WARRIORS v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
2.00pm, Sunday, May 1
Referees: Gavin Badger and Chris Butler
MATT ALLWOOD (Farrer Memorial Agricultural High)
BLAKE AYSHFORD (Paddington Tigers)
DAVID FUSITU’A (Marist Saints)
JAMES GAVET (Richmond Rovers)
CHARLIE GUBB (University Hunters)
RYAN HOFFMAN (Campbelltown Collegians) (c)
SHAUN JOHNSON (Hibiscus Coast Raiders)
SOLOMONE KATA (Howick Hornets)
SHAUN LANE (South Eastern Seagulls)
THOMAS LEULUAI (Papatoetoe Panthers)
JACOB LILLYMAN (Richmond Tigers)
SIONE LOUSI (Richmond Rovers/Bay Roskill Vikings)
ISSAC LUKE (Hawera Hawks)
JOHN PALAVI (Richmond Rovers)
TOAFOFOA SIPLEY (Richmond Rovers)
JAZZ TEVAGA (Papakura Sea Eagles)
JONATHAN WRIGHT (Northern Lake Warriors)
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
1 JOSH DUGAN
2 KALIFA FAIFAI LOA
3 EUAN AITKEN
4 TIM LAFAI
5 JASON NIGHTINGALE
6 GARETH WIDDOP (c)
7 JOSH McCRONE
8 LEESON AH MAU
9 MITCH REIN
10 MIKE COOPER
11 TYSON FRIZZELL
12 JOEL THOMPSON
13 JACK DE BELIN
14 RUSSELL PACKER
15 WILL MATTHEWS
16 DUNAMIS LUI
17 SILIVA HAVILI
18 TAANE MILNE
COACH | PAUL McGREGOR
BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ
Head to head | Vodafone Warriors $1.87, St George Illawarra Dragons $1.87
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 1.30pm (kick-off 2.00pm), Sunday, May 1