Rookie Carlos Tuimavave has been named to replace the injured Kevin Locke at fullback for the Vodafone Warriors’ 24th-round NRL clash against Penrith at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday (2.00pm kick-off local time; match day sponsor: DEWALT).
Locke lasted only 16 minutes of Saturday night’s encounter with North Queensland before being forced off with an ankle injury.
Scans have revealed Locke has a high ankle sprain which will rule him out of the three remaining games this season.
In his debut against Cronulla on August 5, Tuimavave (20) played in the centres after standoff James Maloney left the field after only 16 minutes; against the Cowboys he played the last 64 minutes at fullback.
Tuimavave, a 50-game NYC player, marked his second NRL appearance by scoring his first try at first-grade level, making 125 metres from 14 runs and later being voted the players’ player of the day by his team-mates.
“There weren’t many positives out of the North Queensland game but Carlos was certainly one of them,” said Vodafone Warriors head coach Brian McClennan.
“He stepped up really well when he came on after Jimmy (Maloney) was injured against Cronulla and he answered the call again against the Cowboys at a difficult time.
“We’ve been really pleased with the way Carlos has gone.”
While Locke is out for the rest of the season, captain Simon Mannering is again missing from the side as he continues to recover from the ankle sprain that ruled him out after the encounter with Newcastle on July 21.
Manu Vatuvei will captain the side for the fourth time in what will be another personal milestone match for him.
Last Saturday night he became the first Vodafone Warrior to reach the 100-try mark in the NRL, doing so in 149 games; his strike rate is among the best in the game today with 71 of his tries coming in his last 91 games. His try against the Cowboys came in the dying seconds on a night when he made 119 metres from 10 runs, including six tackle breaks.
This weekend Vatuvei (26) will make his 150th NRL appearance, just the seventh player in the club’s history to reach the mark with Stacey Jones (261), Logan Swann (195), Lance Hohaia (185), Awen Guttenbeil (170), Mannering (164) and Wairangi Koopu (159) ahead of him.
Veteran loose forward Micheal Luck is also on target to play his 150th match for the Vodafone Warriors in the last game of the season against Canberra, his final outing before retiring.
Luck is again on the bench against the Panthers after making his return from another lay-off last Saturday night. He played 41 minutes against the Cowboys, making 20 tackles and missing only two.
Back in the team this week is loose forward Elijah Taylor, who missed the game in Townsville after returning home following the sudden death of his father last Friday. He will start in the No 13 jersey with Sebastine Ikahihifo on a five-man bench alongside Luck, Russell Packer, Steve Rapira and Pita Godinet.
Packer plays his 99th game this week while second rower Feleti Mateo brings up his 50th game (he hasn’t missed a game since joining the club). Winger Bill Tupou made his 50th appearance last weekend.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v PENRITH PANTHERS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
2.00pm, Sunday, August 19
1 CARLOS TUIMAVAVE
2 BILL TUPOU
3 LEWIS BROWN
4 KONRAD HURRELL
5 MANU VATUVEI (c)
6 JAMES MALONEY
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 SIONE LOUSI
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 JACOB LILLYMAN
11 FELETI MATEO
12 BEN HENRY
13 ELIJAH TAYLOR
14 RUSSELL PACKER
15 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
16 MICHEAL LUCK
17 STEVE RAPIRA
18 PITA GODINET
HEAD COACH: BRIAN McCLENNAN