Popular front rower Charlie Gubb is set for one of the highlights of his career after being named to play an NRL match in his hometown for the first time in Saturday’s 22nd-round clash against St George Illawarra in Wellington (5.00pm kick-off).
He was used in the New South Wales Cup side when the Vodafone Warriors took an NRL home game to the Capital for the first time in 2013 and again last year.
But this time the 25-year-old Wellington College old boy will in the top grade playing in front of family and friends alongside fellow local rugby league products Simon Mannering and Ben Matulino.
Gubb, a product of the University Hunters club in the Capital, will appearing in just his sixth game this season and the 12th of an NRL career which started in 2013.
“We couldn’t be more pleased for Charlie now he has the chance to play an NRL game at home,” said Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden.
“It’s been great having him back in the side with the energy he gives us.
“His mix of energy and aggression rubs off not only on the players but also on the fans. They have really taken to Charlie in a big way and we know he’ll be keener than anyone to get out onto the field against the Dragons on Saturday.”
With seasoned back rowers Ryan Hoffman (calf) and Bodene Thompson (ankle) still sidelined, McFadden has made just one change to the side which lost 14-18 to Cronulla at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday with Jonathan Wright in the centres for Konrad Hurrell.
The Vodafone Warriors’ third loss on end has seen them slip to ninth. For all but one week the club had been in the top eight since beating Cronulla in round nine in May.
“The energy was there against Cronulla but we need to be better defensively, in our execution and our effort,” said McFadden.
“With the changes we had we were disjointed last week, which wasn’t unexpected, but we’re going to need big improvements in what is a huge game for us.
“We enjoy being able to play in Wellington and we’ve loved the way the people from around the region have supported us the last two times we’ve been down there.”
The Vodafone Warriors go into their 23rd clash against the Dragons boasting just four wins, three of which were achieved at Mount Smart Stadium. It’s eight years since they last beat them (44-16 in Auckland in 2007); the only survivors from the victory are Mannering – who scored two tries in the centres – and wing Manu Vatuvei.
Vatuvei went try-less last week but made a game-high 195 metres from 14 runs in his first match in more than a month. He remains four tries short of 150 career tries.
In their two previous home games at Westpac Stadium the Vodafone Warriors lost 16-24 to Canterbury-Bankstown in 2013 and beat Wests Tigers 42-18 last year.
This year’s visit provides another tripleheader – but with a difference.
It starts at 12.30pm with the Wellington Rugby League’s club grand final, a match-up which has special interest for Matulino as the Te Aroha Eels (his junior club) face the Wainuiomata Lions.
At 2.40pm the Vodafone Junior Warriors meet the Dragons in the NYC fixture before the feature kicks off at 5.05pm.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
5.00pm, Saturday, August 08
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 KEN MAUMALO
3 JONATHAN WRIGHT
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 CHAD TOWNSEND
7 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 ALBERT VETE
11 BEN MATULINO
12 SIMON MANNERING (c)
13 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
14 SILIVA HAVILI
15 SAM LISONE
16 CHARLIE GUBB
17 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER
18 DOMINIQUE PEYROUX
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN