An unchanged Vodafone Warriors side has been named to face Newcastle for Issac Luke’s 200th career appearance in Saturday’s 14th-round NRL match at Hunter Stadium (3.00pm kick-off local time; 5.00pm NZT).
The 29-year-old Kiwi hooker will be playing his 12th game for the Vodafone Warriors after a 188-match career with South Sydney from 2007-2015.
Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden has retained the same 17 players used in Saturday night’s 36-18 win over Brisbane, the club’s best performance of the season so far.
It’s only the second time this year that McFadden has been able to pick the same team in consecutive games, the last being for the encounters with Newcastle and the Sydney Roosters in the fourth and fifth rounds.
While the Vodafone Warriors have now improved to a five wins-seven losses record to sit just two points outside the top eight, assistant coach Andrew Webster said the challenge remained for the side to back up after success.
“It’s really good to have that continuity for a change being able to name the same said,” he said.
“But it’s a really difficult road trip going to Newcastle and we’re going to need everyone on deck.
“They’re a really aggressive side with their line speed. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready to go because if we’re not we’re going to be in for a tough night.”
The most experienced starting forward pack available has again been named although senior prop Ben Matulino was switched to the bench against the Broncos. Luke will this week become the fourth player of the starting six forwards to join the 200-game club (along with captain Ryan Hoffman, Simon Mannering and Jacob Lillyman while Matulino is closing in as well, making his 185th appearance this week).
Apart from providing a convincing victory margin, the win over Brisbane also produced a series of season-best or near-best numbers in key team statistics.
The Vodafone Warriors had the fewest missed tackles in a match with 16 and the most line breaks (10) while there were just six errors, equal best for the year so far. The completion rate (83 per cent) and metres gained (1589) were second best for the season.
The record between the Vodafone Warriors and the Knights is dead even at 17 wins each with a draw after the Vodafone Warriors won 40-18 at Mount Smart Stadium in March.
However, they have lost in their last two visits to Hunter Stadium in 2015 and 2014 while their overall record in Newcastle is six wins and nine losses.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
3.00pm, Saturday, June 11
1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
2 DAVID FUSITU’A
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 MANU VATUVEI
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 NATHANIEL ROACHE
15 SAM LISONE
16 ALBERT VETE
17 CHARLIE GUBB
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN