NRL: Mateo dropped to bench

By Michael Brown

Feleti Mateo of the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images
Feleti Mateo of the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images

Feleti Mateo is putting together an impressive number with his run of consecutive games but a couple of his other numbers in recent weeks have been anaemic and it has cost him his starting spot in the Warriors side.

The 29-year-old will on Saturday play his 74th consecutive game for the Warriors and 105th overall - the last game he missed was in 2009 - when they take on the Titans but he won't look back on his last three performances with much satisfaction. Not only did the Warriors lose all three to put the skids on their push for the playoffs but he has also been flat and off-colour.

He is by no means the only Warriors player to go missing over that time but he has been shadow of the player who is often seen him as one of the most damaging forwards in the competition.

Against the Panthers last weekend, Mateo ran for just 35m from six runs in 52 minutes on the field. His average over the past three weeks has dipped from 90m to 59m and he's also produced only three offloads when he has averaged nearly 2.5 a game this season.

It has seen him dropped to the interchange bench for Saturday's must-win game against the Gold Coast, with Elijah Taylor moving to the second row and Todd Lowrie named to start in the No 13 jersey.

"I'm not sure what's going on," Mateo said. "If I knew what to do to make me play good, I would be doing it. I have been pretty upset with how I am going. I have been too quiet and need to turn it around next week.

"I threw a stupid offload at the end of the game [against the Panthers] when I shouldn't have because I was trying too hard. That's the balance I thought I had found the last couple of years. I might be letting the shackles off this week. Who knows?"

The Warriors need to do something to save their season _ they need to win all three games to have any hope of making the playoffs _ and most of it has to do with attitude. They have lacked intensity in the last three weeks, something that shouldn't be happening at this time of the season, and found themselves dominated by their opponents.

Opposition teams have run for nearly 300m more than the Warriors in each of the past three games and in the case of the Panthers, it was nearly 400m more.

Coach Matt Elliott has largely stuck with the players who helped them win seven out of eight for Saturday's game but tinkered with the lineup.

Jerome Ropati will play his first NRL game since injuring his hamstring against the Titans in round 8 but will do it on the right wing in place of Ngani Laumape, who drops to an extended five-man interchange bench. Laumape might still play given centre Dane Nielsen is battling an ankle sprain which restricted him to just 12 minutes against Penrith.

"Jerome has been working his way back to a return to the NRL," Elliott said. "He has been a part of all our training lately and it was only a matter of time before he came back into the side."

Halfback Albert Kelly returns for the eighth-placed Titans after three weeks out with a sternum injury but Luke O'Dwyer's season is over with a serious knee injury.

Warriors side to play the Titans at Skilled Park, Gold Coast, on Saturday (7.30pm): Kevin Locke, Jerome Ropati, Dane Nielsen, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Suaia Matagi, Elijah Taylor, Simon Mannering (c), Todd Lowrie. Interchange: Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Feleti Mateo, Dominique Peyroux, Ngani Laumape (one to be omitted).

Titans: William Zillman, Kevin Gordon, Brad Takairangi, Jamie Dowling, David Mead, Aidan Sezer, Albert Kelly, Luke Douglas, Beau Falloon, Nate Myles, Greg Bird, Mark Minichiello, Ashley Harrison. Interchange: David Taylor, Ryan James, Ben Ridge, Matt Srama.

- APNZ

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