1st Grade Fringe
- May 18, 2012
Kevin Locke has been named at fullback while one Rapira comes in for another for the Vodafone Warriors’ 14th-round NRL match against Penrith at Centrebet Stadium next Monday night (9.00 kick-off New Zealand time).
Locke scored a try and kicked three goals from three attempts in his first full game in more than two months when he turned out for the Auckland Vulcans in their 18-32 New South Wales Cup loss to Newcastle last Saturday.
He comes in for Glen Fisiiahi, who was off the field for more than 20 minutes with a knee injury midway through the Vodafone Warriors’ 12-22 defeat by Melbourne on Sunday.
Returning to the side for the first time this season is front rower Steve Rapira, replacing his older brother Sam, who played just five minutes against the Storm before a triceps rupture in his left arm forced him off. He faces surgery and three months out of action.
The injury again denies the Rapira brothers the chance to play in an NRL match together for the first time, Sam being side-lined with a hand injury when Steve made four first-grade appearances last year.
“It’s encouraging to know Kevin came through the full 80 minutes for the Vulcans last weekend,” said Vodafone Warriors head coach Brian McClennan.
“He’d had next to no football for more than two months so it was important that he was able to play a full game.
“Once again it’s a tough time for Sam. He was just getting back into his work after time out with an ankle injury and now he’s out for a long time. It’s so disappointing for but Steve has been working his way back, getting minutes in for the Vulcans and he’s ready now to come back into the NRL.”
The tough-tackling younger Rapira (23) missed the start of the season with a serious ankle injury he received in the Vodafone Warriors’ trial against South Sydney in Coffs Harbour in February. He had to wait until May 12 for his comeback, appearing for the Vulcans against Windsor; since then he has played for them against Canterbury-Bankstown, Cronulla and Newcastle.
Locke played the first four games of the year before leaving the field with a leg injury late in the encounter with Gold Coast on March 24. He returned against Melbourne on Anzac Day but lasted just six minutes before being forced off with a sternum injury.
While Locke and Rapira are starting all over again, 11 players will be maintaining their sequence on Monday night of appearing in every match so far this season. Playing their 13th straight games of the season will be Bill Tupou, Ben Henry, Manu Vatuvei, James Maloney, Russell Packer, Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor, Simon Mannering, Feleti Mateo, Lewis Brown and Sione Lousi. Matulino, Mateo and Mannering were also the only players to appear in each of the club’s 28 games in 2011.
Matulino (23) will play his 99th NRL match next Monday night, leaving him in line for his century of appearances when the Vodafone Warriors play Cronulla on Saturday, June 16.
Front row partner Russell Packer, a foundation Vodafone Junior Warrior with Matulino in 2008, plays his 90th match next week while Vatuvei edges towards his 150th when he brings up game No 145. With his try on Sunday, he now has 95 career tries.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v PENRITH
Centrebet Stadium, Penrith
5.30pm, Monday, June 11
1 KEVIN LOCKE
2 BILL TUPOU
3 BEN HENRY
4 KONRAD HURRELL
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 JAMES MALONEY
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 RUSSELL PACKER
9 ALEHANA MARA
10 BEN MATULINO
11 ELIJAH TAYLOR
12 SIMON MANNERING (c)
13 FELETI MATEO
14 LEWIS BROWN
15 STEVE RAPIRA
16 SIONE LOUSI
17 JACOB LILLYMAN
18 GLEN FISIIAHI
COACH: BRIAN McCLENNAN