Several line-up changes have been made for the Vodafone Warriors’ 17th-round NRL clash against Penrith at Panthers Stadium on Friday night (7.55pm kick-off local time; 9.55pm NZT).
Two have been forced with second rower Tohu Harris (knee) and interchange prop Bunty Afoa (elbow) side-lined for up to six weeks after picking up injuries in last Friday night’s tough 15-18 loss to Cronulla at Mount Smart Stadium.
Simon Mannering moves from loose forward to the second row replacing Harris while Adam Blair makes a timely return from a one-match suspension to reclaim the No 13 jersey.
Afoa is out of the side for the first time this season, his spot on the bench going to Ligi Sao, who has been performing impressively for the club’s Intrust Super Premiership side.
In last Saturday’s 24-20 win over previous competition leaders the Mounties, Sao gained 158 metres from 15 runs in his 60 minutes on the field and complemented his work with the ball with 32 tackles.
He’s poised to play just his fifth NRL game of the season and his first since appearing in each of the Vodafone Warriors’ wins in the first four rounds of the year.
There are three changes in the starting backline with first-choice wingers David Fusitu’a and new Kiwi international Ken Maumalo both back while Peta Hiku moves from the right wing into the centres. Gerard Beale, who was on the left wing against Cronulla, is on the bench with centre Anthony Gelling returning to the ISP side.
Beale and Sao apart, the other players in line to make up the game day bench are Jazz Tevaga and Chris Satae.
The four additional players on the extended bench are Joseph Vuna, Karl Lawton, Sam Lisone and Mason Lino.
Issac Luke, Hiku and James Gavet are all nearing personal milestones. Luke will move within four games of his 250th career appearance, Hiku within four of his 100th and Gavet will be just two short of his 50th. Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is seven games away from his 50th outing for the Vodafone Warriors and Mannering nine from his 300th.
The Vodafone Warriors go into their third consecutive Friday night match lying fifth on the ladder on 22 points with a 10-5 record. The Panthers are on the same points but sit fourth on points for and against; a win would take the Vodafone Warriors back into the top four.
In 39 matches between the two clubs, the Vodafone Warriors have had 16 wins, Penrith 22 with one match drawn. In their last 10 meetings the Panthers have an 8-2 advantage and haven’t lost to the Vodafone Warriors at Panthers Stadium since round 14 in 2012.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v PENRITH PANTHERS
7.55pm, Friday, July 6, 2018
Panthers Stadium, Penrith
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 JAMES GAVET
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 AGNATIUS PAASI
11 ISAIAH PAPALI’I
12 SIMON MANNERING
13 ADAM BLAIR
14 JAZZ TEVAGA
15 CHRIS SATAE
16 LIGI SAO
17 GERARD BEALE
18 JOSEPH VUNA
20 KARL LAWTON
21 SAM LISONE
22 MASON LINO
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY