Big Ben is back.

Prop Ben Matulino has been named on an extended bench for the match against the Storm next Tuesday and his return can't come soon enough.

He's not guaranteed to figure in Melbourne - as he needs to prove his fitness as he comes back from a knee injury - but coach Stephen Kearney was optimistic yesterday.

"The medical team are quietly confident," Kearney told Radio Sport yesterday. "He'll have a couple of tests this week and a full week of training to get through. Contact training has been a gradual progression."

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Kearney added that Matulino has completed contact sessions over the last two weeks, and the signs are promising.

Matulino injured his knee in training in January, then, after an operation, suffered another setback when he got an infection post-surgery.

For the Warriors sake, his imminent return is imperative.

While all the focus has been on the impact of Kieran Foran over the last few weeks, Matulino is arguably almost as important.

One of the main impressions from Saturday's 20-8 loss to the Raiders was that the Warriors forward pack still lacks some punch. The Auckland team had a ton of ball in the first half but rarely dented the line, and in the second half struggled to contain the likes of Shannon Boyd, Josh Papalii and Joseph Tapine.

When on song, Matulino is unquestionably the Warriors' most damaging forward. He's got size, strength and footwork and well as almost 200 NRL games on his CV. He's had form fluctuations over the last few seasons - and was occasionally used as a second rower by former coach Andrew McFadden - but when at his best belongs in the top echelon of NRL props.

He also offers a presence that the likes of Jacob Lillyman, Charlie Gubb and Sam Lisone just can't match, and is a leader to the young crop of Warriors' forwards.

"Ben is a guy you want to follow," said Gubb last month. "He's that kind of player."

When he does make his comeback, Matulino will join the handful of players who have appeared across 10 NRL seasons for the Warriors. That select list includes Stacey Jones, Awen Guttenbeil, Lance Hohaia, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei, Simon Mannering and Sam Rapira.

Matulino's inclusion on the bench is the only change from the 21-man squad initially named for last Saturday's clash in Canberra. He joins Nathaniel Roache, Gubb, Ligi Sao, Lisone, Bunty Afoa, Ata Hingano and Mason Lino on the extended bench.

Next Tuesday's encounter will be the eighth Anzac Day match between the Storm and the Warriors since the fixture was first introduced in 2009. On that occasion, the match finished in a 14-14 draw after golden point extra time. Of this year's squad, Mannering, Lillyman, Matulino and Vatuvei played for the Warriors while Ryan Hoffman was in the Storm's line-up.


WARRIORS v MELBOURNE STORM
AAMI Park, Melbourne
7.00pm, Tuesday, April 25

VODAFONE WARRIORS
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)
2 BLAKE AYSHFORD
3 DAVID FUSITU'A
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 KIERAN FORAN
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JAMES GAVET
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 JACOB LILLYMAN
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN
13 SIMON MANNERING