Ben Matulino says 200th is 'just another game' as he looks to muscle up against formidable Dragons pack

Ben Matulino will become just the fourth man to play 200 games for the Warriors when he takes the field against the Dragons.
ANDREW CORNAGA/PHOTOSPORT

Ben Matulino will become just the fourth man to play 200 games for the Warriors when he takes the field against the Dragons.

Ben Matulino joins an exclusive club for the Warriors on Friday but there will be no excessive celebrations from the veteran prop. He has far bigger things to worry about - namely, the Dragons' monster forward pack.

Matulino will become just the fourth player to make 200 appearances for the Auckland outfit in Hamilton on Friday, putting him alongside Warriors legends Stacey Jones, Simon Mannering and Manu Vatuvei.

But as rare as the achievement is for the club, the 28-year-old is treating it as just another game.

"I don't see how different it is to playing 201 games or your second game, I don't really buy too much into that," Matulino said. 

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"I get a massive buzz from playing in other peoples' milestones, I was lucky enough to play in Ruben (Wiki) and Steve Price's 300th."

Matulino's decision to sign with the Wests Tigers and link back up with the coach who gave him his start in first grade, Ivan Cleary, means he won't come close to threatening Mannering's club record of 267 games and counting.

Although, he is still hoping to make a significant contribution this season before his Warriors career comes to an end.

The 23-test Kiwis international is coming off a disappointing 2016 campaign but after missing the opening seven games due to a knee injury, he has made a solid return over the past month.

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With questions surrounding the Warriors forwards since round one, a fit and firing Matulino is just what coach Stephen Kearney needs to boost his pack.

For his part, Matulino feels ready to step it up another level in Hamilton.

"If I was to be returning on the target date it would've been last week and it was definitely the first time my left knee held up well," he added. "It's getting better and I'm happy to get through all of the minutes I can. Now I just need to start bumping it up and getting more involved."

A return to top form against the Dragons would indeed be timely, with the visitors boasting one of the strongest packs in the NRL.

It starts with the two bookends upfront where Paul Vaughan, who has been a revelation since joining the club from Canberra in the off-season, and ex-Warrior Russell Packer form a formidable one-two punch.

Tyson Frizell and Joel Thompson provide plenty of strike on the edges and it doesn't stop there, with the likes of Tariq Sims and Leeson Ah Mau maintaining the rage from the bench.

The Dragons have struggled for points without injured five-eighth Gareth Widdop, losing their last three games while star fullback Josh Dugan is also nursing a fractured cheekbone.

But even without that key duo, Matulino is well aware that unless they match the Dragons up the middle, the Warriors are unlikely to come away with the two points.

"Paul Vaughan is probably the signing of the year. I've watched their games and he's brought a lot of energy to their team and I can see him working well with Russell," he said. 

"Talking to Russell, they've had a massive pre-season and they're a lot fitter than they were last year and that's won them a lot of games. So we definitely have a tough task on our hands."

 - Stuff

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