Feleti Mateo out as coach McFadden gets tough
New Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden has wasted little time wielding the axe.
For his first game in charge after replacing Matt Elliott, McFadden has dumped Feleti Mateo to the reserve grade team this weekend and named Sebastine Ikahihifo at lock for Sunday's game against the Bulldogs in Auckland.
Also gone is new recruit Chad Townsend, who has been replaced in the halves by a fully fit Thomas Leuluai.
The dumping of Mateo for Ikahihifo was a big call. But it's also one likely to be applauded by fans.
Mateo was a shadow of his former self all of last season and has started the new campaign in similar fashion.
He looks overweight, lethargic, has become error-prone and for many supporters he's become the epitome of everything that's been going wrong at the club.
"It's tough on Chad. He has been doing a good job but Thomas is key player for us," McFadden said.
"He's a leader and is ready to come back into the starting line-up.
"Feleti hasn't been going well and knows he needs to play his way back into form with our NSW Cup side. That means Seb starts and he deserves it after the work he has done so far this season."
McFadden said when he got the job that he'd be tough on players who weren't performing and from the selection of his first side, he's living up to that statement.
Other changes to the side include Ngani Laumape selected for the first time this season. He has been picked on the wing, replacing Glen Fisiiahi, who has a shoulder injury.
Under Elliott, David Fusitua was regarded as the next winger off the rank, but McFadden clearly prefers the bulkier style of player in Laumape rather than the speed of Fusitua.
There are some interesting choices on the interchange for Sunday's game at Eden Park too. As well as the usual other props, Jacob Lillyman and Suaia Matagi, McFadden has also selected Dominique Peyroux, Charlie Gubb, Siliva Havili and David Bhana.
Two of those players will drop out of the team, but it does demonstrate that McFadden is looking at players who weren't getting much of a chance at first-team footy under Elliott.
"They have all earned their selection on the extended bench," McFadden said.
"It's really exciting for Siliva to be making his debut and he thoroughly deserves it. Dom was the players' player of the day against Cronulla [in the NSW Cup] and Charlie and David have both been working hard for the NSW Cup side. It's good to be able to recognise them."
NZ WARRIORS: Sam Tomkins, Ngani Laumape, Dane Nielsen, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino, Jayson Bukuya, Simon Mannering (c), Sebastine Ikahihifo. Interchange (from): Jacob Lillyman, Suaia Matagi, Dominique Peyroux, Charlie Gubb, Siliva Havili, David Bhana