TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Vodafone Warriors v Panthers
Tuesday 14 May 2013 1:51 PM
Vodafone Warriors back rower Feleti Mateo will reach the NRL’s 150-game milestone when he faces Penrith in Saturday night’s 10th-round clash at Centrebet Stadium (7.30pm kick-off local time; 9.30pm kick-off NZT).
It will also be the 29-year-old’s 62nd consecutive game since joining the Vodafone Warriors, the only player in the squad who has appeared in every match since the start of the 2011 season.
He has today been confirmed in a line-up showing just one change from the side that lost 16-24 to the Bulldogs in front of 30,112 spectators in ‘The Capital Clash’ at Westpac Stadium in Wellington last Saturday night (the crowd was a record for a rugby league match in the Capital).
The one exception is Sam Rapira. He was initially selected to start at prop last week but was subsequently ruled out with a hand injury picked up in the eighth-round win against Gold Coast.
In his absence 25-year-old Suaia Matagi became Vodafone Warrior No 181, gaining 32 metres from four carries and making 11 tackles in his 19 minutes on the field against the Bulldogs. Matagi has been included on a five-man bench for the trip to Penrith.
“Suaia looked really comfortable at this level, as we were confident he would do,” said Vodafone Warriors head coach Matthew Elliott.
“He did all we expected of him but now Sam is ready to go again, meaning we’ll have our four experienced front rowers back in harness.
“It’s also going to be a big night for Feleti playing his 150th game in the NRL. It’s a big achievement.”
Consistently the competition’s leading off loader, Mateo made his debut for Parramatta in 2004 before a stint with the London Broncos in the English Super League.
He returned to the Eels, reviving his NRL career in 2006 and going on to make 88 appearances with Parramatta before shifting to Auckland.
With Kevin Locke still out with a back injury, Glen Fisiiahi will again start at fullback on Saturday night. His peers named him the players’ player of the day after his display against the Bulldogs; he scored his fourth career try and also laid on one for winger Manu Vatuvei.
Also retained is Carlos Tuimavave, again starting in the centres with experienced Dane Nielsen (ribs) and Jerome Ropati (hamstring) nursing injuries.
The Vodafone Warriors face a Penrith side sitting two points ahead of them in 12th spot on the ladder after their 12-10 win over 2012 premiers the Melbourne Storm on Sunday night.
There’ll be some familiar faces in the opposition camp this weekend, not just former Vodafone Warriors coach Ivan Cleary and his Mount Smart Stadium assistant David Fairleigh but also ex-Vodafone Warriors players Lewis Brown, Isaac John and Matt Robinson who all featured against the Storm.
When the two teams met at Penrith’s home ground on wet June night last year, Vatuvei scored a double in the Vodafone Warriors’ 30-16 win.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v PENRITH PANTHERS
Centrebet Stadium, Penrith
7.30pm, Saturday, May 18
1 GLEN FISIIAHI
2 BILL TUPOU
3 BEN HENRY
4 CARLOS TUIMAVAVE
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 THOMAS LEULUAI
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 SAM RAPIRA
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 RUSSELL PACKER
11 FELETI MATEO
12 SIMON MANNERING (c)
13 TODD LOWRIE
14 BEN MATULINO
15 JACOB LILLYMAN
16 ELIJAH TAYLOR
17 PITA GODINET
18 SUAIA MATAGI
HEAD COACH: MATTHEW ELLIOTT