Vodafone Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney has made two personnel changes and a positional swap for Friday night’s 16th-round NRL clash against Canterbury-Bankstown at Mount Smart Stadium (8.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Suzuki).
Solomone Kata is unavailable after being given bereavement leave to fly home to Tonga following the sudden death of his older brother yesterday.
David Fusitu’a moves in from the wing to replace Kata in the centres while 2017 NRL rookie Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad has been called up for his fifth first-grade appearance.
The other change is on the bench with hooker Nathaniel Roache returning. Sam Lisone, Albert Vete and Bunty Afoa are again listed in jerseys 15-17 with James Gavet, Manu Vatuvei, Ligi Sao and Ata Hingano rounding out the extended bench.
“Our hearts go out to Sol and his family at this time,” said Kearney.
“We’re all thinking of him and send our deepest sympathies to the family.”
Kata appeared in the last two matches against Parramatta and Gold Coast after being sidelined with an injury. His return saw Nicoll-Klokstad drop back to the club’s Intrust Super Premiership side after his first four NRL outings against the Sydney Roosters, Penrith, St George-Illawarra and Brisbane.
This week’s encounter – the Vodafone Warriors’ fifth Friday night game this season – follows a bye round for both the home side and the Bulldogs. They’re also both coming off wins, the Vodafone Warriors accounting for Gold Coast 34-12 on June 10 and the Bulldogs stopping St George Illawarra 16-2 on June 11.
Second rower Ryan Hoffman will have his first outing back home after his unforgettable 300th career appearance in Robina when he scored the Vodafone Warriors’ opening try and completed their scoring with a sweetly-struck conversion of Hingano’s late try.
The two teams both have 6-8 win-loss records with the Vodafone Warriors sitting 11th on the table on points for and against and Canterbury-Bankstown 12th. They’re two points outside the top eight.
After St George Illawarra and Manly, the Bulldogs rank as the Vodafone Warriors’ third toughest opponents since entering the competition in 1995. The win-loss ledger reads 20-13 in Canterbury-Bankstown’s favour while there have been two draws.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
8.00pm, Friday, June 23
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)
2 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD
4 DAVID FUSITU’A
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 KIERAN FORAN
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
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 JAMES GAVET
20 MANU VATUVEI
21 LIGI SAO
22 MAFOA’AEATA HINGANO
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY