1st Grade Fringe
- May 17, 2012
- Reaction score
Halfback Shaun Johnson has recovered from his elbow injury to be named for the Vodafone Warriors’ season-opening NRL match against the Eels at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday (5.30pm kick-off; 7.30pm NZ time).
The 22-year-old playmaker hyperextended his right elbow during the Vodafone Warriors’ 16-10 trial win against Brisbane in Dunedin on February 23.
The conservative view was that he could be out for three or possibly four weeks but Elliott was always optimistic Johnson would be ready to take on the Eels.
He was more than optimistic today after naming his first official NRL side since taking charge at the Vodafone Warriors.
“I’m confident Shaun is ready to take on the Eels,” he said.
“Our medical team has been working on him and he has recovered really well.”
As he did for the trials against Penrith in Hamilton and against the Broncos, the 38-game NRL player will be teamed in the halves with veteran Thomas Leuluai.
The starting line-up shows only one change from the one used against Brisbane – Glen Fisiiahi named on the right wing ahead of Bill Tupou. Second rower Ben Henry is on the bench, returning after missing the Dunedin trial with an ankle injury while utility Pita Godinet is also included.
Making their first NRL appearances for the club will be the 2012 Melbourne grand final-winning duo Dane Nielsen and Todd Lowrie; while the Vodafone Warriors have had premiership victors on their roster before they’ve never had two current winners at the same time.
Centre Nielsen will become Vodafone Warrior No 178 and Lowrie No 179 while Wellingtonian Charlie Gubb (22), one of six named on the interchange bench, is in line to become No 180.
While Nielsen, Lowrie and Leuluai were the club’s three major signings, Gubb has impressed during his offseason trial earning a fulltime contract for the 2013 season. A member of the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ inaugural NYC premiership winning side in 2010 – and also named NYC clubman of the year – Gubb was part of Wynnum-Manly’s 2011-2012 champion Queensland Cup teams. He was also made the Queensland Residents side last year before returning home to take up a trial contract with the Vodafone Warriors. Another prop on trial, 2012 Vulcans regular Suaia Matagi, has also been signed on a fulltime contract.
“Charlie and Suaia have impressed us and have absolutely earned their contracts. It’s great to have them with us fulltime,” said Elliot.
Leuluai, who also boasts 30 Tests for the Kiwis, is poised to play for the Vodafone Warriors again more than eight and a half years since his last appearance for the club in 2004. That was coincidentally also against the Eels.
After appearing 21 times for the Vodafone Warriors in 2003-2004, Leuluai spent eight seasons in the English Super League, making than 220 appearances for Wigan and the London Broncos. In 189 games for Wigan he scored 60 tries.
The Vodafone Warriors travel to Sydney on Friday afternoon ahead of Saturday night’s game before returning home for ED3N – THE RISING, their first home game of the season against the Sonny Bill Williams-bolstered Sydney Roosters at Eden Park on Saturday, March 16 (7.30pm kick-off).
VODAFONE WARRIORS v PARRAMATTA EELS
Parramatta Stadium, Parramatta
5.30pm, Saturday, March 09
1 KEVIN LOCKE
2 GLEN FISIIAHI
3 DANE NIELSEN
4 KONRAD HURRELL
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 THOMAS LEULUAI
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 SAM RAPIRA
9 ELIJAH TAYLOR
10 BEN MATULINO
11 FELETI MATEO
12 SIMON MANNERING (c)
13 TODD LOWRIE
14 BEN HENRY
15 JACOB LILLYMAN
16 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
17 PITA GODINET
20 STEVE RAPIRA
21 CHARLIE GUBB
HEAD COACH: MATTHEW ELLIOTT