Queensland Origin prop Jacob Lillyman has been named as the only line-up change for the Vodafone Warriors’ 16th-round NRL clash against the top-of-the-table Cronulla Sharks at Southern Cross Group Stadium in Sydney on Saturday (5.30pm kick-off local time; 7.30pm NZT).
The 32-year-old 220-game NRL veteran makes his 12th Origin appearance in the second match of the 2016 series against New South Wales at Suncorp Stadium tomorrow night.
He has today been named to start in the Vodafone Warriors’ much-anticipated encounter with the Sharks three days later.
Lillyman’s inclusion in the line-up sees fellow senior prop Ben Matulino named on the bench with Albert Vete the other starting front rower, as he has been in the three consecutive wins over Brisbane, Newcastle and the Sydney Roosters in the last three rounds.
The 23-year-old led the Vodafone Warriors’ forwards with an impressive 138 metres from 14 runs in his 33 minutes on the field against the Roosters.
“I’d love to see Jake having an outstanding game in a losing Queensland side tomorrow night and being all clear to back up for us against the Sharks,” said Vodafone Warriors assistant coach – and proud New South Welshman – Andrew Webster
“It’ll be great to get him back for this match.
“We had a really tough test against the Roosters across the park on Sunday night and especially in the middle where our boys had to work so hard against Waerea-Hargreaves and the rest of their pack.
“They came through it well despite the challenges we faced but now we have to go up to another level completely against a Cronulla side which has been so impressive.”
The Sharks sit on top of the table with 26 points after losing just twice this season, the last defeat against Manly in round three. Since then they have had 10 straight victories with their most recent a 13-10 success against premiers the North Queensland Cowboys on June 13.
They’re coming off a bye and have four of their players in the New South Wales side – captain Paul Gallen, James Maloney and Andrew Fifita plus 18th man Jack Bird.
Since their first bye, the Vodafone Warriors have totalled 98 points while conceding only 42 – an average of only 14 a game – in their last three outings.
The Vodafone Warriors have won 16 of their previous 35 encounters with the Sharks. Six of those wins have come in 16 contests at Cronulla’s home ground, the most recent in May last year when halfback Shaun Johnson
turned on a magic show in a 20-16 victory.
Vodafone Warriors loose forward Simon Mannering plays his 249th NRL game this week leaving him on track for his milestone 250th at home against the Gold Coast Titans on Saturday week. He will become only the second player to reach the 250-game mark for the club behind the legendary Stacey Jones (261 appearances).
VODAFONE WARRIORS v CRONULLA SHARKS
Southern Cross Group Stadium, Cronulla
5.30pm, Saturday, June 25
1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
2 DAVID Fusitua
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 THOMAS LEULUAI
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 ALBERT VETE
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN (c)
13 SIMON MANNERING
14 NATHANIEL ROACHE
15 SAM LISONE
16 BEN MATULINO
17 CHARLIE GUBB
18 ATA HINGANO
20 TOAFOFOA SIPLEY