NRL: Iro drops Maloney and Johnson

By Steve Deane

Tony Iro. Photo / Dean Purcell
Tony Iro. Photo / Dean Purcell

He was never going to get much time to prove he should be the next Warriors coach, but Tony Iro has clearly decided not to waste a moment.

Iro's selections for his second - and possibly final - match in charge since taking the helm from the deposed Brian McClennan have sent the strongest possible message to the club's players, management and ownership.

In axing star halfback Shaun Johnson - who may suffer the ignominy of playing out his season for the Vulcans on Mt Smart's No2 pitch on Saturday - and potentially denying farewell appearances to James Maloney and Lewis Brown, Iro has shown he is not to be trifled with.

Last Saturday night's limp defeat to the Dragons has been deemed unacceptable, with the individuals responsible bladed with little compunction.

"I hope it is a bit of a shot," Iro said. "It is a really important game and most parts of our performance on Saturday were pretty unacceptable. The players are aware of that. The players who aren't selected aren't alone.

Everyone needs to improve. We've got one final chance to make amends. This is a case of us picking the side we think will give us the best chance of winning against the Raiders."

Any illusions Johnson had that he may have become untouchable will have been shattered. The 21-year-old left the field in Wollongong with an eye injury but was expected to be fit enough to face the Raiders on Sunday.

His place has gone to Pita Godinet, with Feleti Mateo taking over from Maloney at five-eighth.

"We had to make some changes," Iro said. "We have to do something about trying to get a much improved performance in front of our members. It's also a special day with Lucky [Micheal Luck] playing his last game before he retires.

"We have got reasons to play but most of all we have got to put a performance on for the people who turn up and watch us. There have been lean pickings this year. We certainly owe a lot of people."

Captain Simon Mannering returns after missing five matches with an ankle injury, a spell that coincided with the season unravelling in spectacular fashion. He injured his ankle late on against the Knights as the team coughed up an 18-0 lead, then missed the following week's trip to Perth when a storming Manly comeback overturned another 18-0 start.

Mannering returns to help farewell long-time teammate Luck, who will make his 150th and last appearance for the club before retiring after 12 seasons and 226 games in the competition.

The question now is whether the changes spark a reaction from Iro's players.

"What will be will be," he said. "When we get through Sunday I can start thinking about other stuff. I've just got to do my best job here - whether that hinders or helps my chances in a few weeks, time will tell."

WARRIORS

Mt Smart Stadium, 4pm Sunday

Carlos Tuimavave
Bill Tupou
Ben Henry
Konrad Hurrell
Manu Vatuvei
Feleti Mateo
Pita Godinet
Jacob Lillyman
Alehana Mara
Ben Matulino
Elijah Taylor
S. Mannering (c)
Micheal Luck
Warriors: Russell Packer, Sione Lousi, Ukuma Ta'ai, Lewis Brown, James Maloney, Sam Lousi, Sebastine Ikahihifo

RAIDERS

Josh Dugan
Sandor Earl
Jarrod Croker
Blake Ferguson
Reece Robinson
Josh McCrone
Sam Williams
D Shillington (c)
Glen Buttriss
Dane Tilse
Josh Papalii
Joel Thompson
Shaun Fensom
Raiders: Shaun Berrigan, Joe Picker, Mark Nicholls, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Jarrad Kennedy.

- NZ Herald

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