Captain Simon Mannering and winger Manu Vatuvei both return for the Vodafone Warriors’ eighth-round NRL encounter with the Gold Coast Titans at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday (2.00pm kick-off; NYC kick-off 11.45am; match day sponsor: DEWALT).
The veterans last played in the Vodafone Warriors’ 16-20 loss to Canberra on April 13.
Mannering (26), fourth on the club’s all-time list with 171 NRL
appearances, has been sidelined with a calf injury which prevented him leading the Kiwis in the Anzac Test on April 19 as well as last Thursday’s Anzac Day 18-28 loss to the Melbourne Storm.
Vatuvei (27) missed the Melbourne trip with a sternum complaint but has now recovered for his 156th career match this weekend.
In his last outing against the Raiders, he scored two tries to lift his club record total to 104 tries. His return on the left wing results in rookie Ngani Laumape being named on a five-man interchange.
Mannering joins Feleti Mateo in the second row while Ben Henry, who replaced the captain against the Storm, will start in the centres with Konrad Hurrell now due to turn out for the Auckland Vulcans in their New South Wales Cup match against competition-leading Cronulla in Sydney on Saturday.
“It’s a massive boost to have Simon and Manu fit again. They’re hugely important to the team with their experience and the contribution they make to our effort,” said Vodafone Warriors head coach Matthew Elliott.
“It means moving Ngani out of the starting line-up, which was a difficult choice. He has done a terrific job for us since coming into the side.
“As for Konrad, this is all part of his development. There’s no question he’s going to be a long-term first-grade player for. This is a chance for him to consolidate his game.”
For just the second time since early June last year, the Vodafone Warriors will have their four 100-game plus props Sam Rapira, Russell Packer, Ben Matulino and Jacob Lillyman operating as a unit.
Utility Elijah Taylor has his first game at home after bringing up his 50-game milestone in Melbourne while second rower Feleti Mateo, who’ll make his 60th consecutive appearance for the club, will move within two games of playing his 150th career game. Lillyman will play his 146th match and his 84th for the Vodafone Warrioirs.
In the last four meetings between them, the Vodafone Warriors have beaten the Titans each time winning 34-14 in Robina and 22-6 in Auckland in 2011 while prevailing 26-6 at home and 32-14 away in last year’s two encounters.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v GOLD COAST TITANS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
2.00pm, Sunday, May 05
Referees: Jason Robinson and Gavin Reynolds
1 KEVIN LOCKE
2 BILL TUPOU
3 JEROME ROPATI
4 BEN HENRY
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 NGANI LAUMAPE
HEAD COACH: MATTHEW ELLIOTT