The Vodafone Warriors will line up as selected 1-17 for tonight’s historic 11th-round home clash against Canberra at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth (7.30pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Vodafone).
It means they’ll start with their most experienced pack for the first time this season.
Captain Ryan Hoffman will be making his 274th appearance while Simon Mannering, back at loose forward, will lift his career tally to 246 games.
Prop Jacob Lillyman plays his 218th game, hooker Issac Luke his 198th, front rower Ben Matulino his 183rd and second rower Bodene Thompson his 113th.
The bench will be Jazz Tevaga, Sam Lisone, John Palavi and James Gavet with 2016 rookie Toafofoa Sipley the 18th man.
Hawera-born-and-raised Luke starts in his homecoming match after being on the bench against St George Illawarra and Penrith.
The 29-year-old Mannering missed the last two matches after receiving an ugly facial wound in the eighth-round match against Melbourne on Anzac Day.
Suspension has forced a significant change in the backline with centre Solomone Kata sidelined for one game after taking an early guilty plea on a dangerous contact charge.
For Kata, the side’s top try-scorer this season with eight in 10 appearances, it stops a run of 34 consecutive games since his NRL debut in the opening round last year.
His absence results in the well-performed Matt Allwood being called in to face his former club. He was brought into the side for the last two games after consistently impressive displays for the Vodafone Warriors’ Intrust Super Premiership side.
“Like Solomone, the telling factor is that Matt is a preferred left side player,” said assistant coach Justin Morgan.
“He’s really comfortable on that side of the field and he'll be working with a good defensive edge as well with Ryan (Hoffman) and Tommy (Thomas Leuluai).
“It’s a huge game for Issac playing in his home province. He got back some form at the weekend, his defence was more consistent and he had a few runs from dummy half, which is what we need him to do. He'll be keen to cement his starting spot in the side.
“Having Simon back in the side is a massive boost. We've missed him a bit. He does a lot of work in and around the ruck and his leadership is excellent as well.”
The Vodafone Warriors go into the contest with a win-loss-win-loss-win-loss sequence in their last six matches while the Raiders have lost four of their last five, the win a 60-6 result against Wests Tigers.
In 34 matches since 1995 the Vodafone Warriors and Canberra are dead even with 17 wins each but the Vodafone Warriors have won each of the last five matches.
Yarrow Stadium becomes the Vodafone Warriors’ third ‘home’ ground away from Mount Smart Stadium after Eden Park and Westpac Stadium.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v CANBERRA RAIDERS
Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
7.30pm, Saturday, May 21
Referees: Grant Atkins and Matt Noyen
1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
2 JONATHAN WRIGHT
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD
4 MATTHEW ALLWOOD
5 DAVID FUSITU’A
6 THOMAS LEULUAI
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN (c)
13 SIMON MANNERING
14 JAZZ TEVAGA
15 SAM LISONE
16 JOHN PALAVI
17 JAMES GAVET
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN