Clashes between the Vodafone Warriors and North Queensland have followed a familiar pattern for many years now of the home team invariably succeeding.
In their last nine visits to Townsville the Vodafone Warriors have won only once – in 2014 – although they were desperately close to a second straight success before being pipped 28-24 by a last-minute try last year.
Conversely, the Cowboys have won just two of their last nine encounters at Mount Smart Stadium.
It has taken until the third to last round of the regular season for the two teams to meet for the only time this year, an encounter that’s of a critical nature for both sides.
Sitting ninth on 24 points, the Vodafone Warriors head into the contest desperate to regain the form they held for such a long period of the season (six wins and three golden points losse since May) before stumbling against South Sydney last week. They need success to keep them on track for a place in the finals for the first time since 2011.
Similarly, the 2015 premiers have ample ammunition, the Cowboys sitting on 28 points, four points off fourth spot, after three losses on end and just four wins in their last 10 starts.
Their last two losses were on the road against Wests Tigers and the Sydney Roosters, extending a form run which has seen them win only three of 11 away games. At home, the Cowboys have lost only once in 10 games this year, that being their last start when they went down to Melbourne on a night when they were without the master Johnathan Thurston.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v NORTH QUEENSLAND | WINS IN TOWNSVILLE
July 29, 1995 | Vodafone Warriors 28, North Queensland 10
August 14, 1999 | Vodafone Warriors 40, North Queensland 14
April 15, 2000 | Vodafone Warriors 18, North Queensland 12
April 6, 2002 | Vodafone Warriors 50, North Queensland 20
March 22, 2014 | Vodafone Warriors 20, North Queensland 16
VODAFONE WARRIORS v NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
1300SMILES Smart Stadium, Townsville
7.30pm, Saturday, August 20
Referees: Ashley Klein and Adam Gee
1 DAVID FUSITU’A (Marist Saints)
2 KEN MAUMALO (Papatoetoe Panthers)
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 Tigers)
9 JAZZ TEVAGA (Papakura Sea Eagles)
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 JAMES GAVET (Richmond Rovers)
20 BUNTY AFOA (Point Chevalier Pirates)
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
1 LACHLAN COOTE
2 KYLE FELDT
3 JUSTIN O’NEILL
4 KANE LINNETT
5 ANTONIO WINTERSTEIN
6 MICHAEL MORGAN
7 JOHNATHAN THURSTON (c)
8 MATT SCOTT
9 RAY THOMPSON
10 JAMES TAMOU
11 GAVIN COOPER
12 ETHAN LOWE
13 JASON TAUMALOLO
14 RORY KOSTJASYN
15 COEN HESS
16 SCOTT BOLTON
17 PATRICK KAUFUSI
COACH | PAUL GREEN
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 JACOB LILLYMAN | It’s a long time now since Townsville was home for ‘Bull’ but there’s naturally some familiarity for him returning to the venue. This is the fifth time he’s played for the Vodafone Warriors against his first club at 1300SMILES Stadium.
#2 BLAKE AYSHFORD | After playing the first 18 games, Ayshford has been on the bench the last three rounds (he wasn’t used against Penrith but came off the bench against the Titans and the Rabbitohs). He’s restored to the starting side teaming up on the right edge with big wing Ken Maumalo.
#3 ALBERT VETE | In tandem with Queenslander Jacob Lillyman, Vete has the demanding assignment of measuring up against North Queensland’s Origin front rowers Matt Scott and James Tamou and giving the Vodafone Warriors a platform to work from.
#4 DAVID FUSITU’A | Fusitu’a has been impressive wherever he has been used this year. This will be his 16th straight game since regaining his place in the NRL side. He has been on the wing seven times, at centre three times and this will be his sixth start at fullback.
#5 JOHNATHAN THURSTON | He’s understandably a key focus whenever any side meets the Cowboys. The supreme playmaker and ultimate competitor will be more challenging than ever trying to rekindle North Queensland’s campaign after a run of three straight losses.
TOP STATS | v SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS | LOST 22-41
Penalties | Vodafone Warriors 5, South Sydney 7.
Completions | Vodafone Warriors 22/32 (69%), South Sydney 29/33 (88%).
Total runs | Vodafone Warriors 140, South Sydney 148.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors 1290, South Sydney 1476.
Line breaks | Vodafone Warriors 5, South Sydney 3.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors 23, South Sydney 30.
Kicks (kicking metres) | Vodafone Warriors 13 (378), South Sydney 21 (540).
Tackles Made | Vodafone Warriors 292, South Sydney 259.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors 30, South Sydney 23.
Offloads | Vodafone Warriors 7, South Sydney 6.
Errors | Vodafone Warriors 9, South Sydney 3.
Runs | Vodafone Warriors: Ryan Hoffman 15, Ken Maumalo 12, Thomas Leuluai 11, Manu Vatuvei 10, David Fusitu’a 10, Albert Vete 10. South Sydney: Sam Burgess 20, Thomas Burgess 14, Greg Inglis 12, George Burgess 11, Aaron Gray 10, Jason Clark 10.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors: Ryan Hoffman 159, Solomone Kata 149, Manu Vatuvei 117. South Sydney: Sam Burgess 195, Hymel Hunt 155, Thomas Burgess 149, Greg Inglis 139, George Burgess 111.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors: Jazz Tevaga 6, Ryan Hoffman 5, Solomone Kata 3. South Sydney: Aaron Gray 5, Cpdy Walker 5, Greg Inglis 4.
Off loads | Vodafone Warriors: Ryan Hoffman 2. South Sydney: Damien Cook 2.
Tackles made | Vodafone Warriors: Simon Mannering 47, Bodene Thompson 37, Nathaniel Roache 34, Ben Matulino 28, Jacob Lillyman 21. South Sydney: Kyle Turner 38, Damien Cook 33, Zane Musgrove 22, Sam Burgess 22.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors: Nathaniel Roache 0, Jazz Tevaga 0, Ryan Hoffman 0, Solomone Kata 0. South Sydney: Sam Burgess 0, Zane Musgrove 0, George Burgess 0, Aaron Gray 0, Joe Burgess 0.
Supports | Vodafone Warriors: Manu Vatuvei 6, Simon Mannering 5. South Sydney: Greg Inglis 9, Cody Walker 6, Sam Burgess 6.
Decoys | Vodafone Warriors: Jacob Lillyman 5, Simon Mannering 5, Albert Vete 5. South Sydney: Sam Burgess 7, Thomas Burgess 6.
RECORD | v NORTH QUEENSLAND
Overall Record | Played 35, Vodafone Warriors 18, North Queensland 17.
At 1300SMILES Stadium | Played 15, Won 5, Lost 10.
Last 10 Games (home and away) | Vodafone Warriors 5, North Queensland 5.
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 256th NRL game (Stacey Jones’ record is 261).
250 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Simon Mannering plays his 256th NRL game.
200 NRL games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Ben Matulino plays his 194th NRL game.
200 NRL games (overall) | Issac Luke has played 206 NRL games; 18 for the Vodafone Warriors after appearing in 188 matches for South Sydney.
150 NRL games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 165th game for the Vodafone Warriors (record for the most games for the club by an Australian player). It’s the 227th in his career including 62 for North Queensland.
150 NRL games (overall) | Blake Ayshford plays his 145th NRL game 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 has played 46 NRL games for the Vodafone Warriors; Solomone Kata has been named to play his 45th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors this week.
150 NRL tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 151 tries in 222 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 665 points (Stacey Jones’ club record is 674); Manu Vatuvei has scored 604 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; Simon Mannering 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 65th time. His record in 64 games is 29 wins, 35 losses.
250 games at Mount Smart Stadium | The Vodafone Warriors’ played their 252nd game at Mount Smart Stadium last week when they faced South Sydney (they have so far played 249 regular season games plus three home finals at Mount Smart Stadium).
2000 tries in the NRL | 1995 (1995-2016)
BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ
Head to head | North Queensland $1.22, Vodafone Warriors $4.00
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 9.00pm (kick-off 9.30pm NZT), Saturday, August 20