Centre Solomone Kata returns from a two-game injury-enforced absence for the Vodafone Warriors’ 13th-round NRL encounter with the Parramatta Eels at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Friday night (7.50pm kick-off local time; 9.50pm NZT).
The 22-year-old Kiwi and Tonga international has been sidelined with a calf injury he picked up late in the 10th-round loss to Penrith.
He missed the defeat by St George Illawarra in Hamilton and Saturday night’s 28-10 win over Brisbane at Mount Smart Stadium but is now back on the left edge to face the Eels.
Kata’s inclusion results in David Fusitu’a moving back to the right wing replacing rookie Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.
It’s the only change to the starting side used in the dominant display against Brisbane, a result which gave the Vodafone Warriors a 5-7 win-loss record leaving them two points outside the top eight.
Head coach Stephen Kearney has listed Jacob Lillyman in jersey #18 with the match against the Eels coming just 48 hours after the veteran prop plays his 14th Origin game for Queensland in the series opener against New South Wales in Brisbane tomorrow night.
“We’ll wait to see how Jake comes through the Origin game tomorrow night,” he said.
“With Sol fit to return we had to make a tough decision about leaving Charnze out. He has done well since being given his opportunity so it’s disappointing for him to miss this game.”
Friday night’s match is the first of back-to-back away games for the Vodafone Warriors, followed by their 14th-round clash against Gold Coast in Robina on Saturday, June 10 (3.00pm kick-off local time; 5.00pm NZT).
It’s just the second outing at ANZ Stadium for the club since playing against Manly in the 2011 NRL grand final. The only other appearance was the final regular season game there against Canterbury-Bankstown in 2015. In their 16 matches at ANZ Stadium, the Vodafone Warriors have won six, drawn one and lost nine.
They face the Eels after their best performance of the season last week, underlined by a raft of impressive statistics.
Among them was a completion rate of 32 from 37 sets (86 per cent) while Brisbane was reduced to 22 from 37 (59 per cent). They made 1849 metres to 1521, missed 25 tackles to Brisbane’s 45 and had only five errors to the visitors’ 15.
It will be the 38th time the two teams have met with Parramatta holding a 20-17 edge overall but a 12-5 advantage at home including two ‘home’ wins in Hamilton.
However, the Vodafone Warriors won the last away meeting 17-13 with a Bodene Thompson golden point try two years ago and four of their five away wins against the Eels have come in the last seven encounters since 2008.
Friday night’s match will be Ryan Hoffman’s 299th career appearance leaving him set to become the 27th player to join the 300 club when the Vodafone Warriors face the Titans on June 10.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v PARRAMATTA EELS
ANZ Stadium, Sydney
7.50pm, Friday, June 2
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)
2 DAVID FUSITU’A
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 KIERAN FORAN
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JAMES GAVET
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN
13 SIMON MANNERING
14 NATHANIEL ROACHE
15 SAM LISONE
16 ALBERT VETE
17 BUNTY AFOA
18 JACOB LILLYMAN
20 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD
21 TOAFOFOA SIPLEY
22 MAFOA’AEATA HINGANO
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY