On their last five visits to Cbus Super Stadium the Vodafone Warriors triumphed every time but hype and expectation around the Gold Coast Titans is on another level for tomorrow’s 22nd-round encounter in Robina (2.00pm kick-off local time; 4.00pm NZT).
That much was evident after the Titans’ 18-18 extra-time draw with competition leader Cronulla on Monday night, a result which moved them to outright seventh on the ladder on 23 points, one ahead of the eighth-placed Vodafone Warriors.
And then confidence quite understandably was catapulted into the upper stratosphere when the Titans revealed Jarryd Hayne’s signing on Wednesday.
It has ensured this will be Gold Coast’s biggest occasion against any side since they beat the Vodafone Warriors 28-16 in their week one finals match in Robina in 2010. That match attracted a crowd of 27,026 and Hayne’s arrival will drive the biggest attendance since then tomorrow.
While there’s a buoyant mood on the Gold Coast, the week has been a mixture of joy, sadness and disappointment for the Vodafone Warriors.
It kicked off with Shaun Johnson’s stunning 55th career try giving the club a famous 20-16 extra-time win over Penrith, a critical result in their campaign to reach the finals.
It was the first time since 2009 (a 17-16 win over the Sydney Roosters) and only the third time in total that the Vodafone Warriors have played a golden point game at Mount Smart Stadium. Their other 11 extra-time contests have all been away games, including four this year.
However, the excitement was overtaken by a mood of sadness on Tuesday when Ben Henry, one of the most likeable players in the game, announced injury had forced him to make the decision to retire at the end of the season.
Then on Friday came the disappointment when it was revealed vastly-experienced hooker Issac Luke would need knee surgery which would sideline him for a month.
It’s a setback for the Vodafone Warriors as they eye an enormous challenge from an in-form Gold Coast side at Cbus Super Stadium tomorrow.
The two teams have been tracking much the same following their round 12 byes.
The Vodafone Warriors have put together a run of five wins and three golden point losses since the start of June. Put another way, they haven’t been beaten in regulation time once in their last eight games, a period in which they’ve conceded just 136 points, an average of only 17 points a game. Together with points from their byes, they’ve collected 14 points from their last 10 rounds to move to 22.
At the same time the Titans have fashioned a record of four wins, a draw and three losses – 29-28 over South Sydney away, 12-22 against Parramatta away, 30-10 at home against Manly, 22-30 against Canberra at home, 18-27 away to the Vodafone Warriors, 32-12 over St George Illawarra away, 34-14 against Parramatta at home and 18-18 with Cronulla at home.
Tomorrow the Titans can look forward to their third straight home game but know the Vodafone Warriors have a healthy record against them and also attract a level of support which routinely drowns out the locals (although the Hayne factor will likely tip the balance this time).
Of the last 11 matches between the two clubs the Vodafone Warriors have won 10 including five straight in Robina.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v GOLD COAST | AWAY WINS
At Cbus Super Stadium, Robina:
May 8, 2001 | Vodafone Warriors 34, Gold Coast 14
July 12, 2012 | Vodafone Warriors 32, Gold Coast 14
August 24, 2013 | Vodafone Warriors 24, Gold Coast 22
May 24, 2014 | Vodafone Warriors 24, Gold Coast 16
June 20, 2015 | Vodafone Warriors 36, Gold Coast 14
At Gold Coast Stadium, Carrara:
June 30, 2007 | Vodafone Warriors 22, Gold Coast 6
VODAFONE WARRIORS v GOLD COAST TITANS
Cbus Super Stadium, Robina
2.00pm, Sunday, August 7
Referees: Jared Maxwell and Gavin Reynolds
1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA (Marist Saints)
2 KEN MAUMALO (Papatoetoe Panthers)
3 DAVID FUSITU’A (Marist Saints)
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 Tigers)
9 ISSAC LUKE (Hawera Hawks) - RULED OUT
10 ALBERT VETE (Mangere East Hawks)
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 BEN MATULINO (Te Aroha Eels)
17 BUNTY AFOA (Point Chevalier Pirates)
18 BLAKE AYSHFORD (Paddington Tigers)
20 JAZZ TEVAGA (Papakura Sea Eagles)
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN
GOLD COAST TITANS
1 DAVID MEAD
2 ANTHONY DON
3 JOSH HOFFMAN
4 KONRAD HURRELL
5 NENE MacDONALD
6 TYRONE ROBERTS
7 ASH TAYLOR
8 LUKE DOUGLAS
9 NATHAN PEATS
10 RYAN JAMES (c)
11 ZEB TAIA
12 CHRIS McQUEEN
13 GREG BIRD
14 EDDY PETTYBOURNE
15 LEIVAHA PULU
16 AGNATIUS PAASI
17 CAMERON CULLEN
18 RYAN SIMPKINS
COACH | NEIL HENRY
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 SOLOMONE KATA | It’s a big day out for Kata who oozes aggression in all he does and also matches it with durability, having missed just one match since his debut last year. This time he matches up against fellow Tonga international Konrad Hurrell.
#2 SHAUN JOHNSON | The side’s focal playmaking option had an outstanding all-round game against Penrith quite apart from his match-winning extra-time heroics. The display earned him the player of the day award from his team-mates and coaching staff.
#3 BODENE THOMPSON | Called in late after an injury lay-off, Thompson impressed on the right edge against the Panthers. There’s special interest in this clash as he lines up against the club he made 49 appearances for from 2009-2013.
#4 ALBERT VETE | Like Thompson, Vete recovered from injury to make his return against the Panthers last week. He was superb in his stints, making 145 metres from 17 runs and adding 21 tackles in the 38 minutes he had on the field.
#5 NATHANIEL ROACHE | With Issac Luke now on the injured list, the 2016 rookie is in contention to make the first starting appearance in his first NRL game in five weeks. His seven previous games have all been from the bench. Outstanding for NYC side last week.
TOP STATS | v PENRITH PANTHERS | WON 20-16
Penalties | Vodafone Warriors 6, Penrith 8.
Completions | Vodafone Warriors 34/42 (81%), Penrith 32/45 (71%).
Total runs | Vodafone Warriors 207, Penrith 184.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors 1828, Penrith 1546.
Line breaks | Vodafone Warriors 5, Penrith 4.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors 31, Penrith 26.
Kicks (kicking metres) | Vodafone Warriors 22 (523), Penrith 17 (496).
Tackles Made | Vodafone Warriors 336, Penrith 392.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors 26, Penrith 31.
Offloads | Vodafone Warriors 7, Penrith 14.
Errors | Vodafone Warriors 13, Penrith 13.
Runs | Vodafone Warriors: Ben Matulino 19, Ken Maumalo 17, Albert Vete 17, Simon Mannering 16, Solomone Kata 14, Tuimoala Lolohea 13, Manu Vatuvei 13, Ryan Hoffman 13, Thomas Leuluai 13, Shaun Johnson 13, Jacob Lillyman 13, Bodene Thompson 12, David Fusitu’a 11, Issac Luke 10, Sam Lisone 10. Penrith: Josh Mansour 24, Trent Merrin 21, Leilani Latu 21, Bryce Cartwright 14, Suaia Matagi 13, Chris Grevsmuhl 12, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 11, Matt Moylan 10, Tyrone Peachey 10.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors: Ben Matulino 174, Tuimoala Lolohea 170, Albert Vete 145, Ken Maumalo 142, Jacob Lillyman 138, Simon Mannering 134, Solomone Kata 129, Ryan Hoffman 119, Manu Vatuvei 118, Bodene Thompson 105, David Fusitu’a 101. Penrith: Josh Mansour 266, Leilani Latu 168, Trent Merrin 164, Suaia Matagi 133, Chris Grevsmuhl 121.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors: Shaun Johnson 5, David Fusitu’a 5, Manu Vatuvei 3, Tuimoala Lolohea 3, Solomone Kata 3. Penrith: Josh Mansour 15.
Off loads | Vodafone Warriors: Albert Vete 4. Penrith: Trent Merrin 4.
Tackles made | Vodafone Warriors: Simon Mannering 63, Issac Luke 41, Bodene Thompson 39, Ben Matulino 32, Jacob Lillyman 32, Ryan Hoffman 29, Albert Vete 21. Penrith: Peter Wallace 44, Trent Merrin 39, Isaah Yeo 39, Leilani Latu 38, Chris Grevsmuhl 37, James Fisher-Harris 31, Bryce Cartwright 31, Nathan Cleary 26, Tyrone Peachey 20.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors: Issac Luke 0, Sam Lisone 0, Ken Maumalo 0. Penrith: Sitaleki Akauola 0, Zak Hardaker 0, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 0.
Supports | Vodafone Warriors: Manu Vatuvei 8, Simon Mannering 7. Penrith: Chris Grevsmuhl 8, Nathan Cleary 6, Tyrone Peachey 6.
Decoys | Vodafone Warriors: Simon Mannering 12, Ben Matulino 5, Sam Lisone 5. Penrith: Trent Merrin 4.
RECORD | v GOLD COAST TITANS
Overall Record | Played 19, Vodafone Warriors 12, Gold Coast 7.
Away | Played 10, Won 6, Lost 4.
Last 10 Games (home and away) | Vodafone Warriors 9, Gold Coast 1.
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).
Bunty Afoa (#213) made his club debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Gold Coast at Mount Smart Stadium on July 2 (Round 17).
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).
Bunty Afoa (#213) made his NRL debut for the Vodafone Warriors against Gold Coast at Mount Smart Stadium on July 2 (Round 17).
Most NRL appearances for Vodafone Warriors | Simon Mannering plays his 254th NRL game (Stacey Jones’ record is 261).
250 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Simon Mannering plays his 254th NRL game.
200 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Ben Matulino plays his 192nd NRL game.
200 NRL games (overall) | Issac Luke plays his 207th NRL game (his 19th for the Vodafone Warriors) after appearing in 188 matches for South Sydney.
150 NRL games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 163rd game for the Vodafone Warriors (record for the most games for the club by an Australian player). It’s the 225th in his career including 62 for North Queensland.
150 NRL games (overall) | Blake Ayshford could play his 143rd NRL game (his 19th consecutive match 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 45th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors; Solomone Kata plays his 43rd NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors.
150 NRL tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 150 tries in 220 NRL appearances. He scored his 150th try in the match against Canberra on July 23 becoming only the 11th player in the competition’s 108-year to achieve the feat. Vatuvei is 11th on the all-time list. The only current players ahead of him are Billy Slater (172 in 278 games) and Brett Stewart (163 in 233 games).
10 tries or more in a season | Manu Vatuvei has the all-time NRL record as the only player in history to have scored 10 tries or more in 10 consecutive seasons; he achieved this from 2006-2015.
600 NRL points | Shaun Johnson has scored 659 points (Stacey Jones’ club record is 674); Manu Vatuvei has scored 600 points, third on the club’s list of all-time points-scorers.
500 NRL points | Issac Luke has scored 470 points.
50 NRL tries | Shaun Johnson has 55 tries; Blake Ayshford has 42 tries; Issac Luke has 39 tries; Jonathan Wright has 36 tries.
50 NRL games as NRL coach (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Andrew McFadden coaches the Vodafone Warriors for the 63rd time. His record in 62 games is 28 wins, 34 losses.
250 games at Mount Smart Stadium | The Vodafone Warriors’ played their 251st game at Mount Smart Stadium when they faced Penrith on July 30 (they have so far played 248 regular season games plus three home finals at Mount Smart Stadium).
2000 tries in the NRL | 1986 (1995-2016)
BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ
Head to head | Gold Coast $1.50, Vodafone Warriors $2.45
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 3.30pm (kick-off 4.00pm NZT), Sunday, August 7