Solomone Kata and Tuimoala Lolohea both return for the Vodafone Warriors’ 25th-round NRL contest against Wests Tigers at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday (4.00pm kick-off).
A hamstring injury kept the 21-year-old Kata out of Saturday’s clash against the North Queensland Cowboys while Lolohea turned out for the club’s Intrust Super Premiership side against the Mounties in Auckland.
Kata was missing from the line-up for only the second time in 46 matches since his NRL debut last year and the first time through injury.
The club’s top try scorer with 14, he ranks sixth equal among all NRL players so far this season and is averaging 116 metres a game.
Lolohea returns for his 47th first-grade game replacing right wing Ken Maumalo, who was forced off the field with a hamstring injury after just 17 minutes of the North Queensland encounter.
The rest of the line-up named today is unchanged from the one used in Townsville with Ata Hingano on a five-man bench after becoming Vodafone Warrior #214 on Saturday.
“Having Sol back is a huge plus for us,” said Vodafone Warriors assistant coach Andrew Webster.
“He’s been outstanding all season so it’s great having him back to face the Tigers.
“It’s disappointing losing Ken because he’s been doing a great job for us but we all know what Tui can do when he’s on his game.”
While the coaching staff and players were hugely disappointed with the performance in the 6-34 loss to the Cowboys, Webster said there were some positive aspects.
“We showed some real resilience in the face of adversity,” he said.
“We had so little possession due to the errors we made but still hung in and managed to defend well for long periods.”
Webster pointed to Simon Mannering’s colossal contribution specifically, the 29-year-old loose forward officially credited with 69 tackles and no misses in 73 minutes on the field. Had he played the full 80 minutes Mannering may indeed have gone close to a personal count of 80 tackles.
It was the eighth time in 20 games this season that Mannering’s tackle count has topped 50. With two regular season games to go, he’s poised to go well past 1000 tackles for the second straight season since being moved to the middle; he has 953 to date, averaging 48 a game. He tallied 1092 tackles in 24 games last year, an average of 46 a match.
Halfback Shaun Johnson goes into this week’s match with a career tally of 667 points, just eight short of surpassing Stacey Jones’ club record of 674.
This will be only the second match against Wests Tigers at Mount Smart Stadium in the last five years, the Vodafone Warriors marking wing Manu Vatuvei’s 200th appearance with a 32-22 win the last time the teams met at the ground last April.
The last two matches between the two sides were both played at Campbelltown Sports Stadium, the Tigers winning both times to even up the ledger at 13-13 in the 26 games the two clubs have played. In 11 home games the Vodafone Warriors are 7-4 ahead, the seven wins coming in the last nine clashes.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v WESTS TIGERS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
4.00pm, Sunday, August 28
1 DAVID FUSITU’A
2 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 THOMAS LEULUAI
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 NATHANIEL ROACHE
10 ALBERT VETE
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN (c)
13 SIMON MANNERING
14 ATA HINGANO
15 SAM LISONE
16 BEN MATULINO
17 JAMES GAVET
18 BUNTY AFOA
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN