Simon Mannering is set to return from injury to make his first appearance of the NRL season when the Vodafone Warriors take on the North Queensland Cowboys in the historic SKYCITY Auckland Double Header at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday (7.30pm kick-off).
Riding a record season-opening run of four consecutive wins, the Vodafone Warriors also welcome back halfback Shaun Johnson from injury and front rower Sam Lisone from his one-match suspension.
Not considered was prop James Gavet, side-lined with a hamstring injury which forced him out of last Saturday’s fourth-round encounter with the Sydney Roosters.
The Vodafone Warriors, still one of only two unbeaten sides this season, have top billing in the SKYCITY Double Header facing last year’s beaten grand finalist North Queensland while the in-form Wests Tigers (the ‘home’ side) meet premiers the Melbourne Storm (5.00pm kick-off). The Tigers shocked the Storm 10-8 when the teams met in Melbourne in round two.
Mannering (31), who has played a club record 280 games, has been cleared to make his return from a shoulder injury he picked up in the trial against Gold Coast in February.
A groin complaint kept Johnson out of the superb 30-6 win over the Roosters, allowing Mason Lino to experience his first NRL victory in his 10th first-grade appearance. Lino, who was involved in three losses in 2015 and six last year, also celebrated his first NRL try and kicked seven goals from seven attempts for 18 points.
While Johnson is named at halfback, Mannering in on the extended bench in jersey No 16 along with Lisone, Jazz Tevaga, last Saturday’s NRL debutant Anthony Gelling, Ligi Sao, Lino, Chris Satae and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.
In what will be his fifth appearance for the Vodafone Warriors this week, second rower Leivaha Pulu will reach his 50-game milestone, having played 45 times for Gold Coast before coming home to Auckland this season.
After opening the season with a 20-14 win over Cronulla, the Cowboys have lost their last three games to Brisbane (20-24), Melbourne (14-30) and Penrith (14-33).
In 37 meetings since 1995, the Cowboys have a narrow 19-18 edge in wins and have won the last four clashes stretching back to 2015 (three of them in Townsville). The Vodafone Warriors’ last success against North Queensland was a 20-16 away win in 2014.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
7.30pm, Saturday, April 7, 2018
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)
2 DAVID FUSITU’A
3 PETA HIKU
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 BLAKE GREEN
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 BUNTY AFOA
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 AGNATIUS PAASI
11 LEIVAHA PULU
12 TOHU HARRIS
13 ADAM BLAIR
14 JAZZ TEVAGA
15 SAM LISONE
16 SIMON MANNERING
17 ANTHONY GELLING
18 LIGI SAO
20 MASON LINO
21 CHRIS SATAE
22 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY