Vodafone Warriors hooker Alehana Mara and front rower Ukuma Ta’ai have been recalled to replace the injured Nathan Friend and Steve Rapira for Saturday night’s 25th-round NRL clash against St George Illawarra at WIN Stadium in Wollongong (5.30pm kick-off local time).
Hooker Friend was forced off 27 minutes into last Sunday’s match against Penrith after dislocating his right shoulder. A decision is yet to be made whether he requires surgery.
Rapira, making only his second appearance at home, has a tear in his right hamstring which is set to keep him out of not just this match against the Dragons but also the season finale against Canberra on Sunday, September 2.
Pita Godinet, who was used off the bench to replace Friend against the Panthers, starts at hooker on Saturday night with Alehana Mara named on a five-man bench. Mara broke his right fibula in the opening minutes of the 14th-round match against Penrith on June 11 and made his comeback via the Auckland Vulcans in their last two matches in the New South Wales Cup.
Ta’ai is back in the squad after appearing in the first 10 rounds of the season; he has been with the Vulcans in the New South Wales Cup since.
Micheal Luck returns to start at loose forward after playing 41 minutes off the bench against North Queensland and 58 minutes against Penrith in last Sunday’s 16-18 loss to Penrith.
The match will be Tony Iro’s first in charge after being called in to guide the side in the last two games of the 2012 campaign following head coach Brian McClennan’s departure this morning.
“It’s been a difficult day for all of us,” said Iro.
“We’re all disappointed with what has happened this season but we’re all in this together and our job now is to keep working as hard as we can to try to bring about a positive end to the season.”
While the Vodafone Warriors are battling in 13th spot on the NRL ladder with eight wins and 14 losses, Saturday night’s match will provide another significant personal milestone, this time for prop Russell Packer.
Still only 22, the Foxton product will play his 100th NRL game, becoming the club’s second NYC graduate (Ben Matulino was the first) to reach the mark after making his debut as an 18-year-old in the NYC’s first season in 2008. The 21st player to join the Vodafone Warriors’ 100-game club, Packer is one of seven of the squad to have appeared in all 22 games so far this season.
Luck will be playing his 149th game for the Vodafone Warriors, leaving him set to become the club’s seventh 150-game player when he makes his farewell appearance in the last game of the season against the Raiders.
Starting the centres again will be Ben Henry, another player who has been ever-present this year. His try-scoring double last week lifted his tally to eight in his rookie season. He was one of the Vodafone Warriors’ best against Penrith, making 119 metres from 11 runs, six tackle breaks, two off loads and a line break.
With three conversions last Sunday, James Maloney lifted his points tally past 150, the third time he has achieved it in his three seasons with the Vodafone Warriors.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
WIN Stadium, Wollongong
5.30pm, Saturday, August 25
1 CARLOS TUIMAVAVE
2 BILL TUPOU
3 BEN HENRY
4 LEWIS BROWN
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 JAMES MALONEY
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 RUSSELL PACKER
9 PITA GODINET
10 JACOB LILLYMAN
11 FELETI MATEO
12 ELIJAH TAYLOR
13 MICHEAL LUCK
14 ALEHANA MARA
15 UKUMA TA’AI
16 SIONE LOUSI
17 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
20 KONRAD HURRELL
HEAD COACH: BRIAN McCLENNAN
https://www.thewarriors.com.au/news-display/Mara and Taai back for Vodafone Warriors/62189