Bunty Afoa’s 100th milestone appearance and Shaun Johnson’s return to Mount Smart Stadium provide special highlights for the Vodafone Warriors’ long-awaited homecoming match against the Wests Tigers on Sunday (4.00pm kick-off).
Playing in front of a sold-out stadium, the Vodafone Warriors will end a 1038-day drought since their last home game against South Sydney on August 30, 2019.
The 25-year-old Afoa was out injured for that match but will memorably become the club’s 28th 100-game player in one of the biggest occasions in the Vodafone Warriors’ history.
He joins the elite club just a matter of weeks after his long-time clubmate Jazz Tevaga hit three figures in the encounter with St George Illawarra.
From the moment he debuted in 2016 Afoa stood out as a back-of-the-fence ball carrier in the same manner as club legends Hitro Okesene and Iafeta Paleaaesina.
Six years later nothing has changed. He still runs as fearlessly as ever at the line in a career which has been marked by his consistency, reliability and discipline. In 99 matches he has been penalised just 24 times – only four for foul play – and has made only 15 handling errors.
The 31-year-old Johnson, who was there for Afoa’s first match and now his 100th, adds to the appeal of an emotion-charged occasion by at last making his return to his beloved Mount Smart Stadium.
He hasn’t played an NRL match on the ground since his last one there against Canberra in 2018; in his three seasons with Cronulla-Sutherland he never played against the Vodafone Warriors in Auckland.
Match: Warriors v Wests Tigers
Round 16 -
Fullback for Warriors is number 14 Chanel Harris-TavitaFullback for Wests Tigers is number 1 Daine Laurie
Winger for Warriors is number 2 Dallin Watene-ZelezniakWinger for Wests Tigers is number 2 David Nofoaluma
Centre for Warriors is number 3 Jesse ArtharsCentre for Wests Tigers is number 3 Starford To'a
Centre for Warriors is number 18 Adam PompeyCentre for Wests Tigers is number 4 James Roberts
Winger for Warriors is number 5 Marcelo MontoyaWinger for Wests Tigers is number 5 Ken Maumalo
Five-Eighth for Warriors is number 6 Ronald VolkmanFive-Eighth for Wests Tigers is number 6 Luke Brooks
Halfback for Warriors is number 7 Shaun JohnsonHalfback for Wests Tigers is number 7 Jackson Hastings
Prop for Warriors is number 10 Jazz TevagaProp for Wests Tigers is number 10 Zane Musgrove
Hooker for Warriors is number 9 Wayde EganHooker for Wests Tigers is number 9 Fa'amanu Brown
Prop for Warriors is number 20 Aaron PeneProp for Wests Tigers is number 16 Alex Seyfarth
2nd Row for Warriors is number 4 Euan Aitken2nd Row for Wests Tigers is number 11 Luke Garner
2nd Row for Warriors is number 13 Josh Curran2nd Row for Wests Tigers is number 12 Kelma Tuilagi
Lock for Warriors is number 12 Tohu HarrisLock for Wests Tigers is number 13 Joe Ofahengaue
Interchange for Warriors is number 8 Addin Fonua-BlakeInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 14 Stefano Utoikamanu
Interchange for Warriors is number 15 Bunty AfoaInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 15 Adam Doueihi
Interchange for Warriors is number 17 Bayley SironenInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 17 Fonua Pole
Interchange for Warriors is number 22 Freddy LussickInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 20 Austin Dias
Replacement for Warriors is number 16 Eliesa KatoaReplacement for Wests Tigers is number 21 Jacob Liddle
- Referee: Chris Sutton
- Senior Review Official: Kasey Badger
In naming his team for Sunday’s landmark event, interim head coach Stacey Jones has made a significant line-up change by shifting Euan Aitken back into the centres.
The last time Aitken started there was against South Sydney in July last year. His last 19 starts have all been in the second row.
He’ll pair up on the left edge with winger Marcelo Montoya with Adam Pompey moved onto an extended bench.
There’s one change on the interchange with Eliesa Katoa recalled alongside utility Chanel Harris-Tavita, Afoa and Bayley Sironen.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v WESTS TIGERS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
4.00pm, Sunday, July 3
1 REECE WALSH
2 DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK
3 JESSE ARTHARS
4 EUAN AITKEN
5 MARCELO MONTOYA
6 RONALD VOLKMAN
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 ADDIN FONUA-BLAKE
9 WAYDE EGAN
10 JAZZ TEVAGA
11 JACK MURCHIE
12 TOHU HARRIS (c)
13 JOSH CURRAN
14 CHANEL HARRIS-TAVITA
15 BUNTY AFOA
16 ELIESA KATOA
17 BAYLEY SIRONEN
18 ADAM POMPEY
20 AARON PENE
21 ROCCO BERRY
22 FREDDY LUSSICK
23 DAEJARN ASI
Head coach | STACEY JONES