Mt Smart renamed 'Manu Vatuvei Stadium' as Warriors look to farewell club icon in style
Manu Vatuvei may have already played his final game for the Warriors but that doesn't mean the blockbusting winger won't be sent off in style.
After being granted an early release from his contract, Vatuvei departs for England on Sunday to join new team Salford, leaving Friday's clash against the Panthers the last chance for Warriors fans to farewell one of the Auckland club's favourite sons.
Mt Smart Stadium has been temporarily renamed 'Manu Vatuvei Stadium' and, while his new contract prevents him from being able to play against Penrith, Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has honoured the 'Beast' by naming him in the No 5 jersey, with starting wing Ken Maumalo to wear No 21.
"While Manu isn't contractually able to play for us on Friday night, I really wanted to honour him by including him in our team list," Kearney said.
"He's one of the club's greatest players and we are really looking forward to giving him a fitting send-off on Friday night.
"He won't play but he'll certainly run down the tunnel before kick off one last time."
Vatuvei's teammates will also have his name, Warrior number and signature embroidered into their playing jerseys. They will warm up in special tees with Vatuvei #115 on the back before the 226-game veteran leads them out onto the field prior to kickoff.
In team news, the Warriors have been boosted by the return of Issac Luke and Solomone Kata for the crunch clash against the Panthers.
First-choice hooker Luke missed the round 17 loss to Manly in Perth with a shoulder injury, while centre Kata was absent for two games following the death of his brother in Tonga.
Luke comes in for young Nathaniel Roache, who has an injured hamstring, with Kata's availability putting Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad back onto an extended interchange bench.
Prop Albert Vete was also ruled out with injury, his broken arm meaning Sam Lisone comes back onto the bench, while Bunty Afoa will again start in the second-row as veteran Ryan Hoffman continues his recovery from a foot injury.
Kearney was pleased to regain the services of Kata and Luke for a game the Warriors need to win to stay in touch with the top eight.
Penrith head into the match in ninth place, level with Kearney's side on 18 points but one spot above them courtesy of a better for and against.
"It's certainly been a tough time for Solomone and his family and our thoughts and prayers go out to them," he said.
"We are really happy to have him back and I know he's very keen to play.
"Issac's shoulder has healed well and he's ready to rip in too."
WARRIORS: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c), David Fusitu'a, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Ken Maumalo, Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson, Bunty Afoa, Simon Mannering. Interchange: Mafoa'aeata Hingano, Ligi Sao, Sam Lisone, James Gavet, Chris Satae, Mason Lino, Jazz Tevaga, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.