Simon Mannering has been named in the starting line-up for the first time this season replacing the injured Leivaha Pulu for the Vodafone Warriors’ seventh-round match against unbeaten St George Illawarra at Mount Smart Stadium on Friday night (8.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Vodafone).
After playing in each of the first six matches of the season, first-year Vodafone Warrior Pulu was forced off the field with a foot injury after just 23 minutes of last Saturday’s 18-27 loss to Brisbane.
While centre Solomone Kata was also forced off late in the game with an ankle injury, he has been selected with head coach Stephen Kearney saying he is a chance to take his place.
With ex-Gold Coast Titan Pulu facing an extended period on the side-line, the 31-year-old Mannering slots into the starting second rower’s role on the left edge for his 283rd career appearance.
In his first two games back from a shoulder injury, Mannering was used off the bench for 57 minutes against North Queensland (70 metres from nine runs and 23 tackles) and 61 minutes against Brisbane (70 metres from 10 runs, 33 tackles).
Filling Mannering’s spot on the interchange is 44-game front rower Albert Vete, who is yet to play at first-grade level this season. After serving a suspension hanging over from last season, Vete has appeared in the Vodafone Warriors’ Intrust Super Premiership side in four of their last five games.
In the 34-4 win over the Sea Eagles last Saturday, he thundered 30 metres to finish off a superb long-range try, playing a total of 52 minutes and making 174 metres from 15 runs including 55 post-contact metres with six tackle breaks.
Vete aside, the other players on the extended eight-man bench are utility Jazz Tevaga, prop Sam Lisone, centre Anthony Gelling, prop Chris Satae, halfback Mason Lino, second rower Isaiah Papali’i and wing Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.
After six consecutive Saturday matches, this week’s encounter with the Dragons is the first of eight Friday night matches the Vodafone Warriors play this season.
The occasion coincides with hooker Issac Luke’s 50th appearance for the club, his 237th overall, while halfback Shaun Johnson will play his 149th match leaving him in line for his 150-game milestone in the traditional Anzac Day contest against the Melbourne Storm tomorrow week.
The Dragons started their 2018 campaign with a 34-12 win over Brisbane before beating Cronulla 20-16, Gold Coast 54-8, Newcastle 30-12, South Sydney 16-12 and Cronulla 40-20 last Friday night.
The last time the Vodafone Warriors and the Dragons met at Mount Smart Stadium in 2016, the home side won 26-10. It remains just the fifth time the Vodafone Warriors have beaten St George Illawarra in 26 encounters.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
8.00pm, Friday, April 20, 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 SIMON MANNERING
12 TOHU HARRIS
13 ADAM BLAIR
14 JAZZ TEVAGA
15 SAM LISONE
16 ALBERT VETE
17 ANTHONY GELLING
18 CHRIS SATAE
20 MASON LINO
21 ISAIAH PAPALI’I
22 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY