After travelling almost 15,000km and playing in four different cities in the last four weeks, the Vodafone Warriors are back home for the first time since June 30 when they host Canberra in Friday night’s 20th-round NRL clash at Mount Smart Stadium (8.00pm kick-off).
Hooker Issac Luke has been named to line up against the Raiders although he faces a judicial hearing tonight on a grade two dangerous throw offence he was charged with following Saturday night’s loss to Parramatta.
The club has accepted the offence but is disputing the grading. If successful, Luke would be clear to play on Friday night.
Included in the 21-man squad is hooker Karl Lawton, who has been side-lined for the last three games with a shoulder injury he picked up in the Newcastle encounter.
Returning at halfback is Kodi Nikorima, who missed the Parramatta encounter with an ankle complaint, while new signing Josh Curran is on the extended bench.
The Vodafone Warriors have endured a challenging sequence of four consecutive away games in July taking them to Newcastle, Brisbane, Wellington and Sydney.
The itinerary produced the tightest series of results imaginable – a 24-20 win over the Knights, an 18-18 draw with the Broncos, a 19-18 victory against the Sharks and a 22-24 loss to the Eels for a points for and against differential of just three points. In their two previous matches in June the Vodafone Warriors beat Gold Coast 24-20 away and, in their only game in Auckland in their last six games, they lost 18-19 to Penrith.
Left wing Ken Maumalo goes into Friday night’s match boasting 14 tries in 17 matches so far this season to be the joint top try scorer with Parramatta’s Maika Sivo. Maumalo, who snared his fourth brace of the season last weekend, has doubled his career tally which stood at 14 tries in 64 appearances starting the campaign.
Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has consolidated his position at the top of the statistics charts for both most runs (365) and most metres (3575) with Maumalo second in each with 338 and 3331. Maumalo is second equal for most line breaks (14) and Tuivasa-Sheck fourth equal (13).
Three players are closing in on special milestones.
Prop Leeson Ah Mau, one of only two players to appear in every match this year (Peta Hiku is the other), will play his 198th career match this week while fellow front rower Agnatius Paasi and Nikorima make their 96th appearances.
Despite last week’s controversial defeat, the Vodafone Warriors are still just two points off eighth place.
This will be their 41st match against Canberra with the win-loss record reading 21-19 in the Raiders’ favour. In home games, the Vodafone Warriors are 12-8 ahead. The last time the two teams met last year, the Vodafone Warriors prevailed 20-16 on a night when club great Simon Mannering made his 300th career appearance.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v CANBERRA RAIDERS
8.00pm, Friday, August 2, 2019
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Referees: Matt Cecchin and Gavin Badger
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)
2 GERARD BEALE
3 PETA HIKU
4 BLAKE AYSHFORD
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 KODI NIKORIMA
7 BLAKE GREEN
8 AGNATIUS PAASI
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 LEESON AH MAU
11 ADAM BLAIR
12 ISAIAH PAPALI’I
13 JAZZ TEVAGA
14 LACHLAN BURR
15 SAM LISONE
16 BUNTY AFOA
17 CHANEL HARRIS-TAVITA
18 KARL LAWTON
20 JOSH CURRAN
21 ADAM POMPEY
22 ADAM KEIGHRAN
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY