NRL: Warriors take gamble with Matulino

By Elliott Smith

Ben Matulino. Photo / Getty
Ben Matulino. Photo / Getty

It's a gamble Warriors coach Andrew McFadden had to take.

The Warriors will take the case of Ben Matulino's grade one shoulder charge against Brisbane's Corey Oates to the NRL judiciary tomorrow night, deciding against taking an early guilty plea. It could be seen as a risk, weighing up the possibility of getting off the hook entirely or missing the next month of the competition. However, the coming games could define the coaching tenure of McFadden himself and the 0-2 Warriors can't afford to be without the Kiwis international for that period if they can possibly avoid it.

It's likely Warriors management could have stomached a suspension of week, maybe two, but Matulino's record from previous offences mean the potential suspensions were increased. Taking an early guilty plea would have seen him sit out three weeks versus four by being found guilty at Rugby League Central tomorrow night. The difference is negligible.

While the four-week swing may seem like a tough one to negotiate, there are some factors in the Warriors' favour. Matulino's previous history bolsters the weighting of a possible suspension, with grade one shoulder charges normally carrying only two weeks to them.

Repeat viewing of the incident suggests it's at the lower end of the scale.

If Matulino is found guilty, he'll be unavailable again until the round seven match against the Bulldogs in Wellington.

The front-rower was named in the Warriors side to face the Storm in their first home game of the season on Sunday, dependent on whether he is allowed to walk free from the judiciary.

Despite the Warriors' limp start to their campaign, McFadden has opted for consistency rather than swinging the axe with injury concerns Blake Ayshford (concussion) and Manu Vatuvei (ribs) included in the run-on side and Jonathan Wright and Konrad Hurrell named on an expanded seven-man interchange as cover alongside John Palavi.

Fan-favourite Hurrell would make his first appearance of 2016 after missing selection for the first-up losses to the Tigers and Brisbane if Ayshford's fails to prove his fitness.

Home-grown props Albert Vete and Charlie Gubb are also poised to wear the Warriors strip for the first time this season, earning spots on the bench, with Sam Lisone scrubbed through a shoulder injury and Raymond Faitala-Mariner missing selection.

They will face a Storm side without one of their key weapons, with Billy Slater going under the knife yesterday on his persistent shoulder injury. The Queensland fullback faces six to eight months on the sidelines, according to reports, having also had his 2015 season wrecked by the same injury. He played the opening round match, but withdrew before their round two game. It leaves the 32-year-old's future in the game squarely in doubt.

The visitors will have the services of key winger Marika Koroibete after he took an early guilty plea on a dangerous throw charge to avoid missing any matches.

Warriors team to play Melbourne at Mount Smart Stadium, Sunday (4pm): Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Tuimoala Lolohea, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Manu Vatuvei, Shaun Johnson, Jeff Robson, Jacob Lillyman, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman (c), Simon Mannering.

Interchange (three to be omitted): Nathaniel Roache, Charlie Gubb, James Gavet, Albert Vete, John Palavi, Jonathan Wright, Konrad Hurrell

Melbourne Storm: Cameron Munster, Young Tonumaipea, William Chambers, Curtis Scott, Marika Koroibete, Blake Green, Cooper Cronk, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith (c), Jordan McLean, Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris, Dale Finucane.

Interchange: Kenny Bromwich, Tim Glasby, Felise Kaufusi, Ben Hampton.

- NZ Herald

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