Micheal Luck will end a frustrating 258-day wait between games when he makes his much-anticipated return in the Vodafone Warriors’ 15th-round NRL clash against Cronulla at Toyota Stadium on Saturday (7.30pm kick-off NZ time).
The 220-game veteran was today named on the bench in another fillip for the Vodafone Warriors just hours after their confidence-boosting 30-16 win over Penrith last night, only their second success on the road this season.
However, while there was positive news for Luck at last, there was another injury setback with hooker Alehana Mara ruled out for six to eight weeks after x rays last night revealed he had broken his right fibula in the opening minutes of the match.
Mara played on for a few minutes last night before utility Lewis Brown came on to take over in the dummy half role for the last 62 minutes of the match. Head coach Brian McClennan today named Brown to start at hooker against the Sharks with first-choice Nathan Friend still not available after breaking his jaw against Brisbane on May 5.
Luck, who hasn’t played since the club’s NRL grand final encounter with Manly on October 2 last year, was elated about being able to return for his 145th game for the club.
“It’s such a relief to be able to get out on the field after all this time,” he told www.warriors.co.nz today.
“The last few months have been hugely frustrating so just being back in full training with the boys has been exciting and to now have the chance at last to play again couldn’t be better. I can’t wait for Saturday night.”
McClennan said Luck’s dedication in his recovery had been exemplary.
“It’s a thrill for all of us knowing Lucky’s getting back on the field at last. He’s worked so hard for this chance after all the frustration he’s been through,” he said.
“At the same time, we’ve suffered more disappointment with Alehana getting injured just when he was getting a run of games. It’s really tough on him.”
Luck has had four operations since last October. He was initially booked in for post-season surgery to repair a severely damaged finger and also had another operation at the same time when it was discovered he’d broken his wrist in the grand final.
More surgery was needed right on Christmas after he aggravated a shoulder complaint which had troubled him for the best part of two seasons. While he was recovering from that, he suffered yet another setback in February when it was revealed his left wrist hadn’t healed properly, forcing him back into the operating theatre for a bone graft operation and a severely delayed start to his year.
Luck marked his 30th birthday on April 21 by telling his team-mates that he would retire at the end of the season rather than take up a new one-year contract with the Vodafone Warriors. He said he would return to Queensland after seven seasons with the club.
The champion back rower said today he was especially delighted his comeback coincided with a landmark event for young prop Ben Matulino (23), who will play his 100th NRL match on Saturday night, becoming the 20th player to reach the milestone for the club.
With his double against Penrith last night – and he was cruelly denied a third – giant winger Manu Vatuvei is on the cusp of becoming the first Vodafone Warriors player to score 100 tries. He now has seven this season and a career tally of 97 in 145 appearances.
Standoff James Maloney is also poised to crack a significant barrier, needing four points to become only the second player after Stacey Jones to score 500 points for the club. His 14 points last night lifted him to 102 points for the season, leaving him just behind 2012’s leading points-scorer Jarrod Croker (104). Maloney has topped three figures in each of his three seasons with the Vodafone Warriors.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v CRONULLA SHARKS
Toyota Stadium, Cronulla
5.30pm, Saturday, June 16
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 LEWIS BROWN
10 BEN MATULINO
11 ELIJAH TAYLOR
12 SIMON MANNERING (c)
13 FELETI MATEO
15 STEVE RAPIRA
16 SIONE LOUSI
17 JACOB LILLYMAN
20 MICHEAL LUCK
HEAD COACH: BRIAN McCLENNAN
yea boi welcome back Michael, and no Mara