An unchanged squad has been named for the Vodafone Warriors’ season-ending 26th-round NRL clash against Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday (6.30pm kick-off local time; 8.30pm NZT).
Head coach Stephen Kearney has retained the same starting combination used in last Sunday’s heartbreaking 21-22 golden point extra time loss to Manly.
The extended eight-man bench is also unchanged ahead of a weekend when the club’s Intrust Super Premiership team begins its finals campaign against Penrith after finishing second in the regular season. The Ricky Henry-coached side faces the Panthers at UOW Jubilee Oval on Sunday (4.00pm kick-off local time; 6.00pm NZT).
All eight players included on the bench are eligible to play in the ISP finals but not all will be able to do so due to the NRL side being without injured regulars Jacob Lillyman, Bodene Thompson, James Gavet and Nathaniel Roache while Albert Vete has only just been cleared to return.
Late-season encounters with Wests Tigers have been the norm in the last three seasons, this meeting following 25th-round clashes at Mount Smart Stadium last year and at Campbelltown Sports Stadium in 2015.
It’s also the fourth season on end that the Vodafone Warriors have featured in a late kick-off on the final day of the regular season.
The match will be the last in Vodafone Warriors colours for Ryan Hoffman, Ben Matulino, Kieran Foran and Charlie Gubb with Matulino lining up against the club he’s joining next season.
Wing David Fusitu’a will become the only player to appear in each of the club’s 24 games this season, extending his run of consecutive appearances to 42 since his first match last year in round seven.
He is also poised to finish as the team’s leading try-scorer in 2017. His double against the Sea Eagles took his tally to 12, three clear of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, while his career total stands at 32 in 56 appearances.
With 51 tackles against Manly, Simon Mannering ranks second among all players in 2017 with 937. He’s set to finish his 13th NRL season with a career total of 280 games, leaving him on track next year to become the first player to reach 300 games for the Vodafone Warriors and only the second New Zealander after Ruben Wiki to join the 300 club.
Sunday’s contest matches two sides looking for a positive end to challenging campaigns. The Vodafone Warriors sit 13th on 18 points after seven consecutive defeats and have had just one win in 11 away games this year while the Tigers are 15th on 16 points with four losses in their last six games.
It will be the 28th match between the two side since Wests Tigers entered the NRL in 2000. They have won 14 encounters with the Vodafone Warriors bagging 13 victories but the Tigers have a 9-5 advantage in home encounters. It will be only the sixth time the sides have met at Leichhardt Oval, the Vodafone Warriors winning the last time the teams met there in 2013 (24-14) and 28-26 in 2008 while the home side prevailed 24-22 in 2012, 20-12 in 2011 and 17-16 the first time they clashed in 2000.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v WESTS TIGERS
Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
6.30pm, Sunday, September 3
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
18 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD
20 CHRIS SATAE
21 JAMES BELL
22 MASON LINO
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY