The Vodafone Warriors have suffered a further setback with a hamstring injury ruling Thomas Leuluai out of today’s ninth-round NRL clash against St George Illawarra at Mount Smart Stadium (2.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Flava).
Leuluai was again set to team up in the halves with Shaun Johnson but his place has now been taken by the experienced Jeff Robson, who has missed the last two matches after appearing in the opening six rounds of the season.
The Vodafone Warriors were already without the injured Simon Mannering, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Tuimoala Lolohea as well as the six players who were all unavailable for selection (Manu Vatuvei, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson, Sam Lisone, Albert Vete and Konrad Hurrell). Those six players all played for the club’s Intrust Super Premiership side against Canterbury-Bankstown in the main curtain-raiser to the NRL match.
Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden has confirmed a much-changed line-up which includes an NRL debutant in Toafofoa Sipley and Shaun Lane starting in the second row in his first NRL outing for the club.
Jazz Tevaga has been promoted to start at hooker – Issac Luke to the bench – with James Gavet into the front row replacing Matulino and John Palavi starting at loose forward with Charlie Gubb moving to the interchange.
Sipley and Sione Lousi complete the bench alongside Luke and Gubb.
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 after a belated return following wrist surgery in the offseason.
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. He becomes Vodafone Warrior #212.
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 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 absence of 10 key players means the Vodafone Warriors have been stripped of a combined total of more than 1000 NRL appearances for the encounter with the Dragons.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
2.00pm, Sunday, May 1
Referees: Gavin Badger and Chris Butler
1 DAVID FUSITU’A
2 JONATHAN WRIGHT
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD
4 SOLOMONE KATA
20 MATTHEW ALLWOOD
22 JEFF ROBSON
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
14 JAZZ TEVAGA
18 JAMES GAVET
17 SHAUN LANE
12 RYAN HOFFMAN (c)
21 JOHN PALAVI
9 ISSAC LUKE
13 CHARLIE GUBB
23 TOAFOFOA SIPLEY
25 SIONE LOUSI
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN