Blake Ayshford will mark his 29th birthday with his 150th career appearance while prop James Gavet has been named in the starting line-up for the Vodafone Warriors’ seventh-round NRL encounter with the Raiders at GIO Stadium in Canberra on Saturday (5.30pm kick-off local time; 7.30pm NZT).
Ayshford and Gavet are set for their fourth consecutive outings since coming into the side for the first time in the club’s fourth-round clash against St George Illawarra on March 26.
Ayshford was called up in dramatic circumstances, brought in at the last-minute when Kieran Foran was ruled out in the warm-up for the match against the Dragons. The ex-Wests Tigers and Cronulla centre has since featured in the back-to-back wins over Gold Coast and Parramatta to take his career tally to 149 games.
He was near ever-present last season scoring eight tries in 22 games in what was his busiest NRL campaign since 2012.
“Blake has done exceptionally well to reach 150 appearances,” said Vodafone Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney.
“When you look at the rest of our outside backs he’s not the same sort of athlete. Ken (Maumalo) and David (Fusitu’a) are big men, Sol (Kata) is really powerful and Roger (Tuivasa-Sheck) has so much speed. Aysh is a lot different but he’s reliable and does a tremendous job for us.
“It’s great to see him getting to this mark.”
Ayshford contributed to an outstanding all-round display from the back five who all ran the ball more than 100 metres last Sunday. He made 110 metres from 12 carries as well as providing a try assist for the second of Bodene Thompson’s two tries plus two line breaks.
Gavet (28), who made 10 appearances in his first NRL campaign with the club last year, earned his call-up after impressive form for the club’s Intrust Super Premiership side in the first three weeks this season.
After being used off the interchange against the Dragons, he was initially named on the bench but started against both the Titans and the Eels. He topped 100 metres in each of the three games including 107 hard-earned metres from 11 powerful carries while adding 21 tackles in the win over Parramatta, a performance which resulted in him being named the team’s player of the day.
Kearney has chosen an unchanged 21-man squad for the trip to GIO Stadium, one of the most difficult venues in the club’s history.
The Vodafone Warriors had won just once in there in 11 attempts before having back-to-back successes in 2014 and 2015. In last year’s GIO Stadium contest, they came back stunningly with a last-second David Fusitu’a try and Issac Luke’s conversion from the touchline taking the match into golden point extra time only for the Raiders to win it 26-22 with a Jarrod Croker try.
In 36 matches between the two sides overall, the Raiders have a narrow 19-17 edge.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v CANBERRA RAIDERS
GIO Stadium, Canberra
5.30pm, Saturday, April 15
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)
2 BLAKE AYSHFORD
3 DAVID FUSITU’A
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 KIERAN FORAN
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JAMES GAVET
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 JACOB LILLYMAN
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN
13 SIMON MANNERING
14 NATHANIEL ROACHE
15 CHARLIE GUBB
16 LIGI SAO
17 SAM LISONE
18 ALBERT VETE
20 BUNTY AFOA
21 MAFOA’AEATA HINGANO
22 MASON LINO
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY