NRL: Iro rings changes for last Warriors match

Interim Warriors head coach Tony Iro. Photo / Dean Purcell
Interim Warriors head coach Tony Iro. Photo / Dean Purcell

Tony Iro has made a loud statement with his selections for the Warriors' final game of the season against Canberra on Sunday, with no sentiment shown to departing players James Maloney and Lewis Brown.

Both Maloney and Brown, who have appeared in every game this season, are vying for places on an extended seven-man bench, after Saturday night's humiliating 38-6 defeat to the Dragons - Iro's first game in charge as interim coach since the sacking of Brian McClennan.

The season can't be salvaged but at least Iro, who wants to take over the Warriors coaching job on a permanent basis, is sending a message that mediocrity won't be tolerated.

Halfback Shaun Johnson has also been dropped. He picked up an eye injury and left the field against the Dragons but Iro said he was fit and could for the Vulcans instead.

Pita Godinet will start at halfback with Feleti Mateo shifting from the second row to start at five-eighths in place of Maloney.

"This is a case of us picking the side we think will give us the best chance of winning against the Raiders," Iro said. "Pita has been in good form since coming back into the side and deserves the opportunity and we wanted to use Feleti at six.

"We had to make some changes. We have to do something about trying to get a much improved performance from the team in front of our members. It's also a special day with Lucky playing his last game before he retires."

Micheal Luck will play his last game of rugby league on Sunday before taking up a development role with the Cowboys next season and the club hope to send him out the appropriate way. It will also double as his 150th match for the club but they will need to improve significantly if they are to come close to winning.

It's not something they have done for seven games - the club's equal-worst losing streak - but they welcome back skipper Simon Mannering who has been absent for the last five games with an ankle injury.

Mateo, who will make his 52nd consecutive appearance for the club, will team up with Godinet in the halves and centre Konrad Hurrell is back in the starting line-up for his 17th game in his rookie season. Ben Matulino, a late inclusion on the bench against the Dragons, starts in the front row with Jacob Lillyman.

A decision on the final make-up of the Warriors' bench wouldn't be confirmed until just before kick-off on Sunday.

Warriors team to play Canberra at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, on Sunday (kickoff 4pm): Carlos Tuimavave, Bill Tupou, Ben Henry, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, Feleti Mateo, Pita Godinet, Jacob Lillyman, Alehana Mara, Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor, Simon Mannering (C), Micheal Luck. Interchange (three to be omitted: Russell Packer, Sione Lousi, Ukuma Ta'ai, Lewis Brown, James Maloney, Sam Lousi, Sebastine Ikahihifo

- APNZ

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