Fullback McKinnon to start for Warriors - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Fullback McKinnon to start for Warriors

23/09/2008 10:03:03 AM Comments (0)

Lance Hohaia's super form was not enough to retain the fullback spot with Wade McKinnon chosen to return from suspension for the New Zealand Warriors in Saturday's NRL preliminary final against Manly in Sydney.

Coach Ivan Cleary admitted the decision was "really tough" on Hohaia who wore the No.1 jersey with distinction for the last three matches while McKinnon was banned and also during his five-month layoff with an ankle injury earlier in the year.

McKinnon has sat out the past three weeks after being found guilty of spitting at a touch judge in the Warriors' home win over Penrith in the penultimate round of the regular season.

His reintroduction for the clash with the Sea Eagles at the Sydney Football Stadium for a place in the grand final is the only change to the Warriors' starting 13.

Utility Hohaia, who has been reliable at the back and a real try-scoring threat in recent matches, is relegated to an expanded six-man bench.

However, Hohaia looks set to get game time against Manly, with fellow back Grant Rovelli one of the two likely to be omitted when the reserves are confirmed.

Coach Ivan Cleary said he couldn't say enough about the job Hohaia had done as a stand-in fullback.

"He's been terrific for us all year in a position he was asked to fill when Wade was sidelined," he said.

"It's really tough on Lance, but Wade is our first-choice fullback and he showed what a quality player he is in that position the moment he came back from his layoff."

The Warriors go into the contest with plenty of momentum, having won 10 of their last 12 outings.

But they haven't been able to beat Manly this season, having been thumped 52-6 at Brookvale Oval and edged out 20-14 at Mt Smart Stadium.

They also lost a pre-season trial to the Sydneysiders on Queensland's Sunshine Coast 24-16.

To be competitive with the Sea Eagles, Cleary said the Warriors had to reproduce for 80 minutes what they did in the second half against the Sydney Roosters last Friday night, when they came from 13-6 down to win 30-13.

"You look at Manly and you just can't find weaknesses," he said.

"They've played extremely well this season and we'll need a huge effort in all areas if we're to be contention against them."

For three players, the match will move them one closer to a personal milestone.

Warriors skipper Steve Price and interchange prop Evarn Tuimavave will make their 299th and 99th first-grade appearances respectively.

NZ Warriors: Wade McKinnon, Aidan Kirk, Brent Tate, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei, Michael Witt, Nathan Fien, Ruben Wiki, Ian Henderson, Steve Price (capt), Simon Mannering, Ben Matulino, Micheal Luck. Interchange: Lance Hohaia, Epalahame Lauaki, Sam Rapira, Grant Rovelli, Logan Swann, Evarn Tuimavave (two to be omitted)

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