Fullback Kevin Locke and centre Dane Nielsen have both been named to line up for the Vodafone Warriors in their 11th-round NRL match against Newcastle at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday (4.05pm kick-off; match day sponsor: dtr).
Locke has been slated to make his 76th appearance after missing the last two games against Canterbury-Bankstown and Penrith with a back injury picked up in the 25-24 home win against Gold Coast on May 5.
And ex-Melbourne centre Nielsen is in line for his sixth outing for his new club after being sidelined with a rib injury suffered in the opening minutes of the 16-20 sixth-round loss to Canberra on April 13.
The duo’s inclusion results in Glen Fisiiahi and Carlos Tuimavave being named on an extended bench. Tuimavave had his first NRL games of the season against the Bulldogs and the Panthers while Fisiiahi was Locke’s replacement for the same matches.
Fisiiahi and Tuimavave are joined on a seven-man interchange by Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Elijah Taylor and Pita Godinet plus Ngani Laumape, who has been with the Vulcans in the New South Wales Cup the last two weeks after making five NRL appearances earlier in the season.
The Vodafone Warriors will mark the NRL’s Women in League cause on Sunday in a match against a Newcastle side boosted by a 44-8 destruction of the Bulldogs last Sunday. That result marked a remarkable transformation for the Knights just a week after they’d conceded 44 unanswered points in a 14-44 loss to Canberra.
The Vodafone Warriors face an even bigger recovery on the back of Saturday night’s record 6-62 defeat by the Panthers. The score-line read 62-0 until winger Manu Vatuvei scored his fifth try of the season in the 78th minute.
“We didn’t compete in physical terms last week and that’s simply not good enough in this competition,” said Vodafone Warriors head coach Matt Elliott.
“If you don’t measure up in the physical exchanges you’ll be humiliated – and we were.
“It was a defining game for us. It’s clear to everyone what we need to do to win back some pride after all the work done in the previous six matches.
“We all know we’ve got plenty of work to do this week to take on a Newcastle side capable of putting lots of points on you, as they did against the Bulldogs.”
The match will again be the third leg of a triple header Sunday, starting with the Auckland Vulcans taking on the Knights in the New South Wales Cup (12.05pm kick-off) before the NYC contest between the Vodafone Junior Warriors and their Newcastle counterparts (1.45pm kick-off). The NRL match is due to start at 4.05pm.
Sunday’s match will be prop Jacob Lillyman’s 149th career appearance leaving him set to mark his 150th against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on June 3. Halfback Shaun Johnson is set for his 49th appearance this weekend.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Referees: Gerrard Sutton and Luke Phillips
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
4.05pm, Sunday, May 26
1 KEVIN LOCKE
2 BILL TUPOU
3 DANE NIELSEN
4 BEN HENRY
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 THOMAS LEULUAI
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 SAM RAPIRA
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 RUSSELL PACKER
11 FELETI MATEO
12 SIMON MANNERING (c)
13 TODD LOWRIE
14 BEN MATULINO
15 JACOB LILLYMAN
16 ELIJAH TAYLOR
17 CARLOS TUIMAVAVE
18 GLEN FISIIAHI
21 NGANI LAUMAPE
22 PITA GODINET
HEAD COACH: MATTHEW ELLIOTT