Beware the Newcastle Knights when they’re playing at Hunter Stadium. The Vodafone Warriors know all about that.
They need look back no further than two encounters just four games apart in late 2014 and early 2015 to find the reasons.
The first was the 23rd-round clash between the two clubs in Newcastle on August 17, 2014, when the Vodafone Warriors were very much in finals contention running sixth on the ladder sitting on 26 points with four games to play.
Coming off back-to-back wins over Canberra and Cronulla, they were fancied to take out the contest against a side sitting well down the table. Instead they slumped to a 22-28 loss, went down heavily a week later to the Roosters at home, recovered with victory over Gold Coast but then lost to Penrith and missed out on the finals when the Brisbane Broncos pipped them on points for and against.
Move forward to the opening round of the 2015 campaign and there was anticipation yet again that a trip to Newcastle would deliver a positive start. Cue frustration and total disappointment as the Vodafone Warriors walked off Hunter Stadium reflecting on a 14-24 loss.
Now they prepare for another contest many expect them to win after their superb 36-18 victory over Brisbane last Saturday lifted them to just two points out of the top eight while the Knights fell 16-46 to the Cowboys in Townsville. It was their seventh straight loss and their 11th in 13 starts leaving them a distant last on the table.
In the fourth round in Auckland this season the Vodafone Warriors thumped the Knights 40-18 in the end but only after they’d been shaken up in the first half. Newcastle led 12-6 after 12 minutes and went to halftime locked at 12-12 before the home side found its range immediately after the break.
The reminders are there if they were needed that the Vodafone Warriors will have to be in tune on Saturday to avoid the setbacks they experienced in their last two visits to Newcastle.
This will be only the sixth game at Hunter Stadium for the Knights this year. While they had a grim 0-62 loss to the in-form Sharks in the 10th round, they beat Wests Tigers 18-16 and drew 24-24 with Canberra in their first two home games of the season and were just edged out 18-16 by Parramatta in their last match in Newcastle.
Despite the 2014 and 2015 losses the Vodafone Warriors have a good record against the Knights, winning 15 of 21 encounters since a 30-26 victory in Newcastle in 2005. It’s not so healthy at Hunter Stadium where they are 5-4 ahead in nine contests since 2005, the last win in 2011.
Central to this 36th meeting will be hooker Issac Luke’s 200th NRL appearance after his debut back in July, 2007.
Other marks are looming with Simon Mannering playing his 247th match this week, Shaun Johnson now just 38 points shy of Stacey Jones’ all-time club record of 674 and Manu Vatuvei needing two tries to take his career tally to 150. The Beast scored against the Knights at Mount Smart Stadium on March 28 to boost his return to 18 tries from 18 matches against Newcastle.
VICTORIES AT HUNTER STADIUM
May 17, 2002 | Vodafone Warriors 34, Newcastle Knights 12
April 17, 2005 | Vodafone Warriors 30, Newcastle Knights 26
April 2, 2006 | Vodafone Warriors 26, Newcastle Knights 22
May 31, 2008 | Vodafone Warriors 18, Newcastle Knights 16
June 13, 2010 | Vodafone Warriors 32, Newcastle Knights 24
May 15, 2011 | Vodafone Warriors 25, Newcastle Knights 16
VODAFONE WARRIORS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
3.05pm, Saturday, June 11
Referees: Dave Munro and Alan Shortall
1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA (Marist Saints)
2 DAVID FUSITU’A (Marist Saints)
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD (Paddington Tigers)
4 SOLOMONE KATA (Howick Hornets)
5 MANU VATUVEI (Otara Scorpions)
6 THOMAS LEULUAI (Papatoetoe Panthers)
7 SHAUN JOHNSON (Hibiscus Coast Raiders)
8 JACOB LILLYMAN (Richmond Rovers)
9 ISSAC LUKE (Hawera Hawks)
10 BEN MATULINO (Te Aroha Eels)
11 BODENE THOMPSON (Tauranga City Sharks)
12 RYAN HOFFMAN (Campbelltown Collegians) (c)
13 SIMON MANNERING (Te Aroha Eels)
14 NATHANIEL ROACHE (Mount Albert Lions)
15 SAM LISONE (Otara Scorpions)
16 ALBERT VETE (Mangere East Hawks)
17 CHARLIE GUBB (University Hunters)
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN
1 DANE GAGAI
2 CORY DENNISS
3 SIONE MATA’UTIA
4 NATHAN ROSS
5 JAKE MAMO
6 JACK COGGER
7 TRENT HODKINSON (c)
8 SAM MATAORA
9 DANNY LEVI
10 DANIEL SAIFITI
11 TARIQ SIMS (c)
12 PAULI PAULI
13 JEREMY SMITH (c)
14 TYLER RANDELL
15 KOBIN SIMS
16 JACOB SAIFITI
17 MICKEY PAEA
19 JOSH KING
20 LACHLAN FITZGIBBON
COACH | NATHAN BROWN
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 ISSAC LUKE | The livewire Luke has certainly rediscovered his mojo, sparking up the side with his all-round game against the Broncos, including eight searching runs out of dummy half. Huge day for him and for his family playing his 200th career game.
#2 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA | Lolohea was positively electric against the Broncos, bringing so much spark to the team with his breath-taking running game. He made 182 metres from 11 runs, 11 tackle breaks, two line breaks and two line break assists.
#3 BEN MATULINO | The big front rower provided immense value when switched to a bench role against the Broncos. When he came on he immediately made a key contribution to fellow prop Jacob Lillyman’s try, finishing the game with 147 metres.
#4 SAM LISONE | In his two NRL appearances since a spell in the ISP side, Lisone has made an emphatic contribution from the bench. He was player of the day with 120 metres from 13 runs against Canberra and added sting in a short stint last week.
#5 SHAUN JOHNSON | He put on a dazzling show against the Broncos, striking with his superb show and go in the eighth minute and leaving his imprint on the game with two try assists, two line breaks, two line break assists and 12 points. Magic Johnson.
TOP STATS | v BRISBANE BRONCOS | WON 36-18
Penalties | Vodafone Warriors 6, Brisbane 8.
Completions | Vodafone Warriors 29/35 (83%), Brisbane 20/32 (62%).
Total runs | Vodafone Warriors 168, Brisbane 136.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors 1590, Brisbane 1200.
Line breaks | Vodafone Warriors 10, Brisbane 4.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors 34, Brisbane 16.
Kicks (kicking metres) | Vodafone Warriors 17 (382), Brisbane 17 (324).
Tackles Made | Vodafone Warriors 253, Brisbane 282.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors 16, Brisbane 34.
Offloads | Vodafone Warriors 11, Brisbane 7.
Errors | Vodafone Warriors 6, Brisbane 10.
Runs | Vodafone Warriors: Ben Matulino 15, Jacob Lillyman 15, Simon Mannering 14, David Fusitu’a 12, Solomone Kata 12, Tuimoala Lolohea 11, Manu Vatuvei 11, Bodene Thompson 11, Ryan Hoffman 11, Issac Luke 10, Thomas Leuluai 10. Brisbane: Tevita Pangai Junior 13, Jarrod Wallace 12, Anthony Milford 11, James Roberts 11, Ben Hunt 11.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors: Tuimoala Lolohea 183, Solomone Kata 157, Ben Matulino 147, Jacob Lillyman 130, David Fusitu’a 120, Simon Mannering 107, Bodene Thompson 97, Ryan Hoffman 96, Albert Vete 93, Manu Vatuvei 90. Brisbane: Tevita Pangai Junior 113, Jarrod Wallace 105, Anthony Milford 104.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors: Tuimoala Lolohea 11, Solomone Kata 7, Manu Vatuvei 3. Brisbane: Adam Blair 3, Tevita Pangai Junior 3.
Off loads | Vodafone Warriors: Ben Matulino 3, Simon Mannering 2, Bodene Thompson 2. Brisbane: Adam Blair 3.
Tackles made | Vodafone Warriors: Simon Mannering 40, Ryan Hoffman 28, Bodene Thompson 25. Brisbane: Josh McGuire 39, Sam Thaiday 29, Jarrod Wallace 28, Adam Blair 27.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors: Blake Ayshford 0, Issac Luke 0, Albert Vete 0, Ryan Hoffman 0, Charlie Gubb 0. Brisbane: Sam Thaiday 0, Tevita Pangai Junior 0.
Supports | Vodafone Warriors: Manu Vatuvei 10, Thomas Leuluai 7, Solomone Kata 6, Simon Mannering 5. Brisbane: Lachlan Maranta 6.
Decoys | Vodafone Warriors: Bodene Thompson 9, Jacob Lillyman 8, Ryan Hoffman 7, Simon Mannering 6. Brisbane: Jarrod Wallace 10, Alex Glenn 7, Adam Blair 6, Tevita Pangai Junior 6.
RECORD | v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Overall Record | Played 35, Vodafone Warriors 17, Newcastle 17, Drawn 1.
Away | Played 15, Vodafone Warriors 6, Newcastle 9.
Last 10 Games (home and away) | Vodafone Warriors 7, Newcastle 3.
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).
Shaun Lane (#211) made his club debut for the Vodafone Warriors against St George Illawarra at Mount Smart Stadium on May 1 (Round 9).
Toafofoa Sipley (#212) made his club debut for the Vodafone Warriors against St George Illawarra at Mount Smart Stadium on May 1 (Round 9).
NRL debuts | 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).
Toafofoa Sipley (#212) made his NRL debut for the Vodafone Warriors against St George Illawarra at Mount Smart Stadium on May 1 (Round 9).
Most NRL appearances for Vodafone Warriors | Simon Mannering plays his 247th NRL game (Stacey Jones’ record is 261).
250 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Simon Mannering plays his 247th NRL game.
200 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Ben Matulino plays his 185th NRL game.
200 NRL games (overall) | Issac Luke plays his 200th NRL game (his 12th for the Vodafone Warriors) after appearing in 188 matches for South Sydney.
150 NRL games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 158th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors this week, the 220th 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 137th NRL game (his 13th for the Vodafone Warriors) after appearing in 104 for Wests Tigers and 20 for Cronulla.
50 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Sione Lousi played his 50th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors against St George Illawarra on May 1; Tuimoala Lolohea plays his 38th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors; Solomone Kata plays his 36th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors.
150 NRL tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 148 tries in 216 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 230 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 636 points; Manu Vatuvei has scored 592 points.
500 NRL points | Issac Luke has scored 426 points.
50 NRL tries | Shaun Johnson has 52 tries; Blake Ayshford has 40 tries; Issac Luke has 39 tries; Jonathan Wright has 35 tries.
50 NRL games as NRL coach (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Andrew McFadden coaches the Vodafone Warriors for the 56th time. His record is 24 wins, 31 losses.
250 games at Mount Smart Stadium | The Vodafone Warriors have played 248 games at Mount Smart Stadium (they have so far played 245 regular season games plus three home finals).
2000 tries in the NRL | 1959 (1995-2016)
BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ
Head to head | Newcastle Knights $3.30, Vodafone Warriors $1.30
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 4.30pm (kick-off 5.05pm), Saturday, June 11
12.40pm | Vodafone Junior Warriors v Newcastle Knights (NYC)
2.40pm | Vodafone Warriors v Newcastle Knights (ISP)