NRL: Tate takes over captaincy as Cleary's injured stars limp off

By Steve Deane

Brent Tate. Photo / Getty Images
Brent Tate. Photo / Getty Images

It's beginning to look as if the Warriors captaincy really is a poisoned chalice.

Dethroned former skipper Steve Price hasn't played a match since losing the job.

His replacement, Simon Mannering, blew out a hamstring pre-season, missed the opening match and then lasted just a game-and-a-half before suffering a relapse.

And now regular stand-in Micheal Luck, one of the game's most durable players, has been ruled out with a broken finger.

All that means the Warriors will field their third captain, centre Brent Tate, in just their fifth game of the NRL season, against the Bulldogs on Saturday night.

"[Luck] had problems with the hand on Sunday and x-rays after the game confirmed he has a break in the finger," team doctor John Mayhew said. "He'll have this week off to give the injury time to settle down."

Tate's elevation to the captaincy comes at a time when the club is making a play to keep the off-contract Queensland and Australia star at Mt Smart beyond the end of the season.

With his brother-in-law Steve Price announcing his end-of-season retirement yesterday, the club is desperate to keep Tate's marquee talent on their books.

"I haven't captained a side in the past but I'm really excited about doing the job against the Bulldogs," Tate said. "I'm going to enjoy the experience."

Tate had the qualities needed to lead the team for what looms as a tough assignment against a Bulldogs side also coming off a defeat, said coach Ivan Cleary.

Given the extent of the club's injury curse, it is a touch facetious but nonetheless accurate, to suggest that having two good legs to stand on is one of those qualities.

"Brent's a tremendous leader in his own right," Cleary said. "He's one of our senior players and this responsibility will sit well with him."

Tate will lead a Warriors side boasting one of the least experienced forward packs in the club's history.

With Luck's 178 appearances missing, there isn't one player in the pack with 100 NRL appearances to his name. The most experienced forward is prop Sam Rapira, who turns 23 tomorrow, with 90 games.

With centre Jerome Ropati also under an injury cloud after a hamstring flare-up on Sunday, the Warriors' backline experience could also take a hit.

With Luck out, Ben Matulino moves off the bench to join Lewis Brown in the second row while Jacob Lillyman switches to loose forward.

Ukuma Ta'ai, who has been playing for the Auckland Vulcans in the New South Wales Cup, will make his first NRL appearance of the season.

"We seem to be getting tested on the injury front every week but that's just the way it goes," Cleary said.

Others unavailable for selection include Price, Manu Vatuvei, Brett Seymour, Isaac John, Shaun Johnson and Elijah Taylor.

BULLDOGS
Luke Patten
Steve Turner
Josh Morris
Jamal Idris
Bryson Goodwin
Ben Roberts
Brett Kimmorley
Ben Hannant
Michael Ennis
Chris Armit
Yileen Gordon
Andrew Ryan
David Stagg

Interchange (from): Tim Browne, Gary Warburton, Jarrad Hickey, Ben Barba, Danny Williams.

WARRIORS
Lance Hohaia
Kevin Locke
Brent Tate (c)
Jerome Ropati
Bill Tupou
Joel Moon
James Maloney
Sam Rapira
Aaron Heremaia
Jesse Royal
Lewis Brown
Ben Matulino
Jacob Lillyman

Interchange: Wade McKinnon, Jeremy Latimore, Russell Packer, Ukuma Ta'ai.

ANZ Stadium, 9.30pm Saturday

- NZ Herald

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