NRL: Vatuvei and Kata back in Warriors lineup

By Michael Brown

Solomone Kata and Manu Vatuvei are in the Warriors side named to play the Broncos on Saturday. Photo / Getty
Solomone Kata and Manu Vatuvei are in the Warriors side named to play the Broncos on Saturday. Photo / Getty

A number of big-name Warriors players will be feeling relieved after surviving the axe for Saturday's game against the Broncos.

Coach Andrew McFadden had implied he would make a raft of changes after his side's limp 38-12 defeat to the Raiders 10 days ago. He felt his side were "soft" and "embarrassing" in that game and signalled he was prepared to make some big calls against the Broncos at Mt Smart Stadium.

Instead, the calls have been more cosmetic. Yes, there are six new names to the side who played Canberra but four of those come on an extended five-man bench (Sam Lisone is the only one to survive) and the others see the logical returns of both Manu Vatuvei and Solomone Kata, who are both available again after medical leave and suspension respectively.

Vatuvei comes in for Jonathan Wright and Kata replaces Matthew Allwood.

McFadden admitted that, with the benefit of time, making wholesale changes might have been counter-productive.

"After the [Raiders] game I was a bit frustrated and disappointed but, upon reflection, I feel that it's not the right time to make the changes," he told D'Arcy Waldegrave on Radio Sport. "I need to trust the group and let them build some confidence together."

Listen: D'Arcy Waldegrave speaks with Andrew McFadden:

Confidence is in low supply.

The Warriors have won only four of their 11 games this season, meaning they have won only four of their last 19 NRL games. They have shipped 120 points in their last four games (and 300 all season) and have the third-worst points differential in the competition. It's little wonder they sit 14th on the table nearly halfway into the season and the coach is fighting off calls for his head.

The first grade squad held a players-only honesty session last week in an effort to turn things around and have copped flak from virtually all corners given this season they were supposed to be top-six material.

It's emerged many players haven't taken kindly to the direct approach of both McFadden and captain Ryan Hoffman and McFadden admitted he needed to bring fun back to Mt Smart.

"We understand that we are not playing well at the moment, we are not denying that," McFadden said. "It has been a difficult month for us. We probably haven't handled it that great.

"Now I just need to get the enjoyment back in these guys so then can go out and have a smile on their face.

"I have just tried to lighten the mood for them. One thing I haven't been doing is beating them with a stick. We have been criticised pretty heavily. Some of that we own and other parts of it has been a bit uncalled for. But we have to live with that. That's the nature of the competition we are in and we just have to bunker down and try to at least find some enjoyment. When you are enjoying your footy, you tend to play a lot better."

Nathaniel Roache, Albert Vete, Charlie Gubb and Ligi Sao join Sam Lisone on an extended five-man bench. A call will be made later in the week after State of Origin, with some suggestions Jacob Lillyman will play for Queensland tomorrow night.

Warriors side to play the Broncos at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday (5pm): Tuimoala Lolohea, David Fusitu'a, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman (c), Simon Mannering. Interchange (one to be omitted): Nathaniel Roache, Sam Lisone, Albert Vete, Charlie Gubb, Ligi Sao.

- NZ Herald

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