The Vodafone Warriors take on Manly as selected for today’s last home game of the season at Mount Smart Stadium (4.00pm kick-off).
While halfback Shaun Johnson is welcomed back from injury after last playing on July 14, this will be the last home match for departing players Ryan Hoffman, Kieran Foran, Ben Matulino and Charlie Gubb.
With Issac Luke named at hooker following Nathaniel Roache’s season-ending injury the starting halves-hooker combination boasts 543 NRL appearances.
In their last home game against Canberra, the Vodafone Warriors, missing both Foran and Johnson, started with Ata Hingano, Mason Lino and Roache, who had never played together at NRL level before and had only 12 starts among their combined tally of 36 first-grade appearances.
As well as welcoming Johnson, head coach Stephen Kearney has Matulino back on deck after he served a one-match suspension last week. However, his return is offset by veteran Jacob Lillyman’s season-ending bicep injury, which he picked up 36 minutes into his 250th milestone match against the Rabbitohs (after he’d made 108 metres from 11 carries).
Wing David Fusitu’a, the side’s top try scorer with 10 – one ahead of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – makes his 23rd appearance of the season, the only player who hasn’t missed a game this year.
After making it five wins on end when they beat the Vodafone Warriors 26-22 in Perth on July 1, the Sea Eagles have lost five of their last seven matches, mixing home wins over Wests Tigers and the Sydney Roosters with losses to Penrith, St George Illawarra, Melbourne, Wests Tigers and Canterbury-Bankstown.
They have a 22-8 winning edge in 30 encounters against the Vodafone Warriors since 1995, making them the Mount Smart club’s second toughest opponents behind only the Dragons. In Auckland, their record is the best of all opponents with only three losses in 14 meetings while they have won 12 of the last 13 matches at all venues.
The Vodafone Warriors last beat the Sea Eagles 18-16 in Auckland in 2013.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v MANLY SEA EAGLES
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
4.00pm, Sunday, August 27
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 BEN MATULINO
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 SAM LISONE
11 BUNTY AFOA
12 RYAN HOFFMAN
13 SIMON MANNERING
14 MAFOA’AEATA HINGANO
15 CHARLIE GUBB
16 ISAIAH PAPALI’I
17 JAZZ TEVAGA
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY