Dane Nielsen is back in the Warriors team for the first time since April to replace the suspended Ngani Laumape for Sunday’s clash with Penrith at Mt Smart Stadium.
Nielsen was one of the first casualties when Andrew McFadden replaced Matt Elliott as the team’s head coach and he paid the price for a string of below par performances.
He has spent the past few months either getting over injuries or playing for the reserve grade team in the New South Wales Cup.
His chance to play in the NRL again comes from the suspension Laumape faces for a dangerous throw on Josh McGuire in the Warriors’ win over the Broncos last weekend.
The centre will be banned for three weeks if he takes an early guilty plea, or five if he unsuccessfully challenges it.
The forced Nielsen-for-Laumape swap is the only change McFadden has made to the line-up used in the 19-10 win over Brisbane, a result which has lifted the Warriors to 10th on the table.
They’re alone on 16 points just behind four teams on 18 points (Brisbane, Melbourne, Parramatta and Wests Tigers) filling sixth to ninth.
‘‘With Ngani on the sideline, Dane has his chance to play in the NRL again,’’ said McFadden.
‘‘He has been working hard on his game in the New South Wales Cup. He gives our left edge plenty of experience and we’ll certainly need it against a Penrith side that has been travelling really well this season.
‘‘This is going to be a massive challenge for us. We’ll have to improve in a big way on our overall performance against the Broncos.’’ Nielsen’s selection for Laumape sees the same bench of Feleti Mateo, Suaia Matagi, Ben Henry and Charlie Gubb.
Playing in their 2014 Women in League jersey, the Warriors will seek to take their record into the black for the first time – eight wins and seven losses – but face a Panthers side which beat them both home and away last year.
Manu Vatuvei, named the players’ player of the day after the Brisbane win, makes his 185th career appearance this week, drawing level with Lance Hohaia on the club’s all-time list. Only Stacey Jones (261), Simon Mannering (202) and Logan Swann (195) have played more games for the Warriors.
While he didn’t add to his record career try tally of 127, Vatuvei was inspirational throughout the contest, with 14 tough carries – mostly out of defence – for 148 metres.
What really lifted the side was the series of four consecutive offensive tackles he made early in the second half.
He also stood out for another reason with his hair and beard turned gold after he was forced to bleach them as a team punishment.
Also nearing a milestone is centre Konrad Hurrell who will play his 49th match.
Warriors: Sam Tomkins, David Fusitua, Konrad Hurrell, Dane Nielsen, Manu Vatuvei, Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Nathan Friend, Sam Rapira, Jayson Bukuya, Simon Mannering (c), Sebastine Ikahihifo. Interchange: Feleti Mateo, Suaia Matagi, Ben Henry, Charles Gubb.
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