Milestone man Simon Mannering will be centre stage in an unchanged starting line-up for his historic 300th NRL appearance when the Vodafone Warriors face Canberra in their final regular season match at Mount Smart Stadium on Friday (8.00pm kick-off).
In his 14th and final first-grade campaign, one-club Mannering – who turned 32 today – will become the first player to appear in 300 matches for the club, just the 34th to reach the mark in the competition’s 100-year history and only the 16th to do so for a single club.
He’ll again be at loose forward with Tohu Harris confirmed to start in the second row after initially being listed on the bench for his comeback appearance in last Friday night’s impressive 36-16 win over Penrith.
The backline includes Mason Lino in the halves with Blake Green again omitted as he recovers from a calf injury picked up in the one-point loss to the Bulldogs on August 19.
The only change comes on the bench where Gerard Beale is named in the 17. He was originally listed in the centres when the side was selected for the Penrith encounter but was subsequently ruled out with a hamstring complaint.
Mannering’s achievement has become the natural focus as the Vodafone Warriors strive to improve their position in their last match before experiencing finals football for the first time since 2011.
After making his debut as an 18-year-old on June 26, 2005, Mannering is set to join Ruben Wiki (312 games) as the only other New Zealander to reach the mark.
Of the 33 players on the list ahead of him, he has played against or with 25 of them, the three he has had as team-mates being Wiki, Steve Price and Ryan Hoffman.
Mannering and Shaun Johnson are the only players in the 2018 side who have had previous finals experience with the Vodafone Warriors, Mannering being part of play-offs campaigns in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011.
The Vodafone Warriors go into Friday night’s match still in eighth place but one of four teams on 30 points on a table which shows just four points between the eight sides and only two points covering second to eighth.
The Stephen Kearney-coached side has the chance to take its tally of wins this season to 15 with victory over the Raiders. That would equal the club’s second-best regular season total achieved in 2003 behind the record 17 in the minor premiership-winning campaign in 2002.
For just the second time in their history – 2002 was the first – the Vodafone Warriors have gone through an entire season sitting inside the top eight every week.
Wing David Fusitu’a is within reach of creating more history as the first Vodafone Warrior to top the try-scoring list for the regular season; last week he became the first to score 20 tries in a regular season. His hat-trick against Penrith lifted him to 21 tries with Cronulla’s Valentine Holmes second on 20.
Manu Vatuvei finished 2010 with 20 tries but one was scored in the finals loss to Gold Coast while Francis Meli's 23 tries in 2003 included a finals record five in the play-offs against the Bulldogs.
Although the Raiders have missed the finals, they come into Friday’s match on the back of a potent performance in their 24-12 win over South Sydney.
The Vodafone Warriors have won 18 of 39 matches against Canberra since the two teams first met in 1995 while they have an 11-8 edge in home encounters.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v CANBERRA RAIDERS
8.00pm, Friday, August 31, 2018
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)
2 DAVID FUSITU’A
3 PETA HIKU
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 MASON LINO
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JAMES GAVET
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 AGNATIUS PAASI
11 ADAM BLAIR
12 TOHU HARRIS
13 SIMON MANNERING
14 JAZZ TEVAGA
15 ISAIAH PAPALI’I
16 BUNTY AFOA
17 GERARD BEALE
18 LEIVAHA PULU
20 ANTHONY GELLING
21 CHRIS SATAE
22 KARL LAWTON
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY