Winger Manu Vatuvei returns as expected but centre Konrad Hurrell has been ruled out for the Vodafone Warriors’ 19th-round NRL match against the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night (7.30pm kick-off local time).
Vatuvei, the club’s try-scoring record holder, again trained impressively today before the team to face the fourth-placed Broncos was confirmed.
After having surgery on his left knee on June 22, he has recovered quickly to make his comeback within the three-four week time frame initially predicted.
Hurrell, who left the field with a foot injury in Saturday night’s match against Gold Coast, trained in the gym today.
Vodafone Warriors head coach Brian McClennan was still hopeful as the team trained that the rookie sensation might recover in time but by mid-afternoon Hurrell had been forced out.
His unavailability sees Lewis Brown starting in the centres after playing in the position for the last 24 minutes of the Gold Coast match after Hurrell left the field.
“Kon’s not going to be right this week but we’re hopeful he’ll miss just this week and will be back for our home game against Newcastle (on July 21),” he said.
“Lewie knows the position well. He played there for most of the second half after Kon went off on Saturday night and we know he’ll do a really good job for us against the Broncos.
“While we’ve lost Kon it’s a big boost to have Manu back. He’s such an important part of our team for so many reasons. He’s been training terrifically and it’s great having his experience out there.”
Hurrell was in devastating touch against the Titans, scoring his first NRL hat-trick to lift his tally for the season to 12 in 12 appearances, elevating him to third on the try-scoring chart.
With Brown starting in the centres, Omar Slaimankhel has been named on a five-man interchange along with former Vodafone Junior Warriors back rower Sebastine Ikahihifo, who appeared in the 2010 and 2011 NYC grand final triumphs. He has been a regular for the Auckland Vulcans in the New South Wales Cup this year.
Not available for selection was veteran loose forward Micheal Luck along with long-term casualties Jerome Ropati and Sam Rapira as well as shorter-term injured players Alehana Mara and Glen Fisiiahi.
Vatuvei comes back for his 146th career game three tries short of becoming the first player in the club’s history to score 100 NRL tries. His return and the benefit of Brown’s 76 games in the NRL will markedly boost the experience in the backline which, in the last three matches, has had an average age of just 21.71 and just 33 games a player.
The Vodafone Warriors head into the game sitting in eighth place ahead of Wests Tigers on points for and against. The points for total of 388, is the second best in the competition, bettered only by Melbourne’s total of 400 points. Brisbane sits four points ahead of the Vodafone Warriors on the ladder on 24 points.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v BRISBANE BRONCOS
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
7.30pm, Friday, July 13
1 KEVIN LOCKE
2 BILL TUPOU
3 BEN HENRY
4 LEWIS BROWN
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 JAMES MALONEY
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 RUSSELL PACKER
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 BEN MATULINO
11 FELETI MATEO
12 SIMON MANNERING (c)
13 ELIJAH TAYLOR
14 OMAR SLAIMANKHEL
15 SIONE LOUSI
16 JACOB LILLYMAN
17 STEVE RAPIRA
18 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
HEAD COACH: BRIAN McCLENNAN