NRL: Mateo reaches milestone at Warriors

Feleti Mateo celebrates his try during the round eight NRL match between the Warriors and the Gold Coast Titans earlier this month. Photo / Getty Images
Feleti Mateo celebrates his try during the round eight NRL match between the Warriors and the Gold Coast Titans earlier this month. Photo / Getty Images

Warriors back-rower Feleti Mateo will play his 150th NRL and 62nd consecutive game for the Warriors when they take on the Panthers in Penrith on Saturday night.

Mateo is the only player who has appeared in every match since the start of the 2011 season, although how many more he adds to that beyond 2013 is a matter of debate with the 29-year-old off contract at the end of the year and reportedly a target of the Dragons.

Warriors coach Matt Elliott has made only one change to the side beaten 24-16 by the Bulldogs in Wellington last Saturday, with prop Sam Rapira coming back into the frame after missing the Bulldogs match with an ongoing hand injury.

Rapira was originally named for the match but was subsequently ruled out with Suaia Matagi making his debut. Matagi, who gained 32m from four carries and made 11 tackles in his 19 minutes on the field against the Bulldogs, has been included on a five-man bench for the trip to Penrith.

"Suaia looked really comfortable at this level, as we were confident he would do,'' Elliott said. "He did all we expected of him but now Sam is ready to go again, meaning we'll have our four experienced front rowers back in harness.

"It's also going to be a big night for Feleti playing his 150th game in the NRL. It's a big achievement.''

Consistently the competition's leading offloader, Mateo made his debut for Parramatta in 2004 before a stint with the London Broncos in the English Super League. He returned to the Eels, reviving his NRL career in 2006 and going on to make 88 appearances for Parramatta before shifting to Auckland.

The Warriors are keen to re-sign Mateo but, with his wife due to give birth to the couple's first child soon, is said to be contemplating a return to Australian to be closer to family.

Glen Fisiiahi will again start at fullback on Saturday night with Kevin Locke still out with a back injury. Fisiiahi was named players' player of the day after his display against the Bulldogs, when he scored his fourth career try and also laid on one for winger Manu Vatuvei.

Carlos Tuimavave also hangs onto his spot in the centres with Dane Nielsen (ribs) and Jerome Ropati (hamstring) still nursing injuries and Konrad Hurrell struggling for form.
Penrith are two points ahead of the Warriors in 12th on the ladder after their 12-10 win over 2012 premiers the Melbourne Storm on Sunday night.

There'll be some familiar faces in the opposition camp this weekend, not just former Warriors coach Ivan Cleary and his Mount Smart Stadium assistant David Fairleigh, but also ex-Warriors players Lewis Brown, Isaac John and Matt Robinson who all featured against the Storm.

When the two teams met at Penrith's home ground on wet June night last year, Vatuvei scored a double in the Warriors' 30-16 win.

Warriors side to play Penrith at Centrebet Stadium, Penrith, on Saturday (9.30pm NZT): Glen Fisiiahi, Bill Tupou, Ben Henry, Carlos Tuimavave, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Russell Packer, Feleti Mateo, Simon Mannering (c), Todd Lowrie. Interchange: Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Elijah Taylor, Pita Godinet, Suaia Matagi.

- APNZ

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