Veteran hooker Issac Luke and middle forward Lachlan Burr return to the bench for the Vodafone Warriors’ 16th-round NRL clash against the in-form Newcastle Knights at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday (7.35pm kick-off local time; 9.35pm NZT).
The 32-year-old Luke comes in for Nate Roache, whose season has been tragically ended by an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his left knee suffered in Sunday’s 18-19 golden point loss to Penrith.
Luke turned out for the Vodafone Warriors in the Canterbury Cup on Sunday, helping the side to a commanding 32-10 win over the North Sydney Bears, the Sydney Roosters’ feeder club.
In his 75 minutes on the field he scored one of the team’s five tries, made 117 metres from 14 runs (99 from 12 dummy half runs), scored a try and had two line breaks, a try assist and eight tackle breaks as well as making 17 tackles.
After featuring in the first 13 matches of the season, first-year Vodafone Warrior Lachlan Burr was left out for the Penrith match to allow him to fully recover from a niggling hip complaint. He comes back into the 1-17 mix this week replacing Leivaha Pulu.
Prop Leeson Ah Mau, centre Peta Hiku and wing Ken Maumalo are now the only players who have appeared in every match this year.
The starting line-up is unchanged with Jazz Tevaga – playing his 48th match – having his second consecutive run at loose forward after being an interchange specialist for so long. In his 73 minutes against Penrith he carried the ball 21 times for 184 metres (including 65 post contact metres), made five tackle breaks, two off loads and 50 tackles.
After Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Blake Green both achieved their 150-game milestones last week, several other players are within reach of landmarks. Ah Mau plays his 194th career match this week, Kodi Nikorima and David Fusitu’a make their 93rd appearances and Agnatius Paasi his 92nd.
The Vodafone Warriors go into the match in 12th spot on 12 points, six points behind the fifth-placed Knights, who have won three of their last four, beating Brisbane 26-12, losing to the Storm 4-34 and winning 20-12 over South Sydney and 38-12 against the Roosters. They have won four and lost three at home this season.
This will be the 41st encounter between the two sides since 1995, the Vodafone Warriors holding a 20-19 edge with one match drawn.
The Knights are 10-7 ahead in 17 clashes in Newcastle and have won three of the last four contests on their home ground against the Vodafone Warriors.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
7.35pm, Saturday, July 6, 2019
McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Referees: Adam Gee and Gavin Badger
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)
2 DAVID FUSITU’A
3 PETA HIKU
4 PATRICK HERBERT
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 KODI NIKORIMA
7 BLAKE GREEN
8 AGNASTIUS PAASI
9 KARL LAWTON
10 LEESON AH MAU
11 ADAM BLAIR
12 ISAIAH PAPALI’I
13 JAZZ TEVAGA
14 ISSAC LUKE
15 BUNTY AFOA
16 SAM LISONE
17 LACHLAN BURR
18 GERARD BEALE
20 LIGI SAO
21 LEIVAHA PULU
22 CHANEL HARRIS-TAVITA
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY