Manu Vatuvei and Ken Maumalo will be teamed up on the wings for the first time since last August when the Vodafone Warriors face Manly in Saturday’s 19th-round NRL encounter at nib Stadium in Perth (3.30pm kick-off local time; 7.30pm NZT).
The 30-year-old Vatuvei returns after being sidelined since a hamstring injury forced him off the field early in the second half of the 50-14 win over Newcastle on June 11.
Maumalo, who turns 22 on Saturday, has filled Vatuvei’s regular spot on the left wing in the Vodafone Warriors’ last three matches against the Sydney Roosters, Cronulla and Gold Coast.
The reunion of the two giant wings comes more than 13 months after they were first used together, ironically when the Vodafone Warriors were last in Perth facing the South Sydney Rabbitohs in June last year.
Vatuvei resumes his 2016 campaign needing just one more try to become only the 11th player in the competition’s history to score 150 tries.
In his absence, Maumalo has left an indelible mark in his first three NRL appearances of the season, making 183 metres from 19 runs against the Roosters, 197 from 25 against the Sharks and 146 from 14 against the Titans.
With Vatuvei and Maumalo both named, utility Tuimoala Lolohea switches to the bench and there are two changes to the starting pack used in the 27-18 win over Gold Coast.
Captain Ryan Hoffman is back after a virus prevented him playing in Simon Mannering’s 250th NRL game while Albert Vete has been ruled out after picking up a hamstring injury. His absence sees Ben Matulino and Jacob Lillyman named as the starting props, Lillyman set to back up after lining up for Queensland in the final State of Origin clash against New South Wales in Sydney tomorrow night. Manly also has an Origin representative in Lillyman’s Maroons team-mate Nate Myles.
Charlie Gubb, who started at loose forward against the Titans, switches back to a five-man bench alongside Lolohea, Sam Lisone, Bunty Afoa and James Gavet.
After distinguishing himself as Vodafone Warrior #213 on debut against Gold Coast, Afoa backed up with 80 minutes for the club’s Intrust Super Premiership side last weekend, making 92 metres from nine runs as well as 43 tackles in a 12-8 win over Illawarra.
Gavet, in line for his seventh NRL outing of the year, has been impressive for the ISP side over the past month with 160 metres and 34 tackles against North Sydney, 174 metres and 35 tackles against Wests Tigers and 147 metres and 30 tackles against Illawarra last Saturday.
The Vodafone Warriors, who fly to Perth on Thursday, take an 8-8 win-loss record into Saturday’s contest. With eight rounds to go in the regular season they’re seventh on the table on 20 points while the Sea Eagles are 13th on 14 points.
Of their eight away matches this year, the Vodafone Warriors have won three but they’re still searching for their first victory in Perth after losses there to the Western Reds in 1996 and 1997, Cronulla in 2005, Manly in 2012 and South Sydney in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
In 28 matches between the two clubs, the Vodafone Warriors have just eight wins with Manly winning 10 of the last 11 encounters since 2009.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v MANLY SEA EAGLES
nib Stadium, Perth
3.30pm, Saturday, July 16
1 DAVID FUSITU’A
2 KEN MAUMALO
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 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
15 SAM LISONE
16 BUNTY AFOA
17 CHARLIE GUBB
18 JAMES GAVET
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN