Two line-up changes have forced by the unavailability of Jacob Lillyman and Manu Vatuvei for the Vodafone Warriors’ 15th-round NRL encounter with the Sydney Roosters at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday (6.10pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Canterbury of New Zealand).
With Lillyman called into the Queensland side for Wednesday week’s second State of Origin match, rookie prop Toafofoa Sipley (21) has been brought onto the bench for his second NRL appearance.
And 2015 rookie Ken Maumalo has been called up for his first NRL appearance of the year replacing Vatuvei.
The club’s veteran try-scoring record holder picked up a hamstring strain early in the second half of Saturday’s 50-14 win over Newcastle and is expected to be sidelined until round 17 (Gold Coast) or maybe after the club’s round 18 bye.
After making an impressive NRL debut against St George Illawarra on May 1, Sipley has maintained his form with the Stacey Jones-coached Intrust Super Premiership side now on top of the table.
Maumalo played eight NRL matches last year but, apart from being the NRL team’s 18th man against the Dragons, he has been on ISP duty until now. He has scored nine tries in 10 matches this year averaging 143 metres a game.
The Vodafone Warriors will be without a combined total of 437 NRL games with Lillyman and Vatuvei absent but they gain two monsters in Maumalo and Sipley.
“They’re massive units and, while we lose experience with Manu and Jake out, Ken and Toaf certainly bring lots of enthusiasm, not to mention size, to the side,” said assistant coach Justin Morgan.
“Ken’s ball carrying is certainly his strength and he’ll help us get out of trouble with his runs from our end. His defence has also been improving and he has worked hard to earn this opportunity.
“Toaf had an impressive debut against the Dragons with a nice line break in there. He has been pushing for another chance, too.
“With Jake out we’ll need Toaf and some of other the boys in the middle to take up some of the minutes he usually gives us.”
Apart from Sipley, the Vodafone Warriors have named an unchanged bench with hooker Nathaniel Roache again joined by middle forwards Sam Lisone and Charlie Gubb.
Despite being named in the starting line-up, the vastly-experienced Ben Matulino was used from the bench for the wins over Brisbane and Newcastle. He has again been listed in the run-on side this week.
In their last two outings the Vodafone Warriors have totalled 86 points and scored 16 tries while conceding only 32 points.
The Vodafone Warriors are poignantly using this match to mark the NRL’s 2016 Heritage Round by wearing an eye-catching replica of their strip from the 2002 grand final against the Roosters.
They have a 19-16 edge over the Roosters overall with one match drawn. In 16 matches at Mount Smart Stadium the record stands at 9-7 in the Vodafone Warriors’ favour.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
6.10pm, Sunday, June 19
1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
2 DAVID FUSITU’A
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 THOMAS LEULUAI
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 ALBERT VETE
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN (c)
13 SIMON MANNERING
14 NATHANIEL ROACHE
15 SAM LISONE
16 TOAFOFOA SIPLEY
17 CHARLIE GUBB
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN