Veteran prop Jacob Lillyman makes his 250th career appearance but he won’t have his regular front row partner Ben Matulino alongside him in the Vodafone Warriors’ 24th-round NRL match against South Sydney at ANZ Stadium on Friday (6.00pm kick-off local time; 8.00pm NZT).
Matulino will miss Lillyman’s milestone through a one-match suspension after taking an early guilty plea on a shoulder charge offence in last Sunday’s clash against Canberra.
The 33-year-old Lillyman, who joined the Vodafone Warriors in 2009 after 62 games for North Queensland, was converted into a front rower in 2011.
Of his 187 appearances for the club so far, 151 have been as a starting prop or as an interchange front rower, more than 130 of them with Matulino in the trenches with him.
On the field for 62 minutes against the Raiders, Lillyman carted the ball up 15 times for 155 metres – the best of any forward in the match – and added 26 tackles. He is now averaging close to 128 metres and 26 tackles across his 20 games this year, well up on his numbers in the previous three seasons.
Lillyman becomes just the 112th 250-game player in the competition’s 109-year history.
Paired up with him on Friday night is Sam Lisone, who’ll be starting for the fourth game on end after being used almost exclusively as an interchange prop during his 60-game career.
Matulino’s absence results in a first-grade return for Charlie Gubb, who has come back from a hernia operation.
Last used at NRL level in the 11th-round match against St George Illawarra in Hamilton, Gubb made 128 metres from 15 carries for the club’s 26-16 Intrust Super Premiership win over Wentworthville on Sunday. He’s set for his 38th career outing on Friday night.
Also named to come back into the side this week is veteran standoff Kieran Foran, who missed the Canberra clash with a shoulder complaint. His availability sees Mason Lino move to an extended bench with Ata Hingano in line to team up in the halves with Foran for the first time. Apart from Gubb and Lino, the others named on the eight-man bench are Issac Luke, Chris Satae, Isaiah Papali’i, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, James Ball and Toaf Sipley.
After losing four games on end, South Sydney has beaten St George Illawarra 26-24 and Canterbury-Bankstown 28-14 to move to 11th on the table on 20 points, two ahead of the 12th-placed Vodafone Warriors.
The Vodafone Warriors’ record against the Rabbitohs is their second best against all current teams in the competition. They have an 18-12 advantage in 30 encounters and 9-6 in 15 away matches at various venues (ANZ Stadium, Sydney Football Stadium, North Sydney Oval and nib Stadium in Perth).
Souths has won each of the last five games – two in Auckland and three in Perth – but this will the first time they’ve met at ANZ Stadium since 2011 (when the Vodafone Warriors won 48-16). It’s the fourth season in a row that the clubs have met just once.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v SOUTH SYDNEY
ANZ Stadium, Sydney
6.00pm, Friday, August 18
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)
2 DAVID FUSITU’A
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 KIERAN FORAN
7 MAFOA'AEATA HINGANO
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 NATHANIEL ROACHE
10 SAM LISONE
11 BUNTY AFOA
12 RYAN HOFFMAN
13 SIMON MANNERING
14 ISSAC LUKE
15 CHRIS SATAE
16 ISAIAH PAPALI’I
17 CHARLIE GUBB
18 MASON LINO
20 TOAFOFOA SIPLEY
21 JAMES BELL
22 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY