Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

League: Big Ben all set to chime in

Ben Matulino's return will boost the Warriors. Photo / photosport.nz
Ben Matulino's return will boost the Warriors. Photo / photosport.nz

Ben Matulino is almost certain to play against the Melbourne Storm on Tuesday night, after coming through unscathed in Warriors training this week.

Matulino still has another session to get through today, but the signs are positive the 196-game veteran will finally return to the pack.

"It's looking good with Ben," said Warriors assistant coach Andrew McFadden yesterday. "He has handled the contact sessions well and all of the physical tests we have put him through. There are still a few more things to go, but I would say he is a very good chance."

Matulino's presence will be a much needed fillip, as the focus finally goes back on the football. The past fortnight has been akin to a soap opera, with the club in the headlines across Australia and New Zealand over Kieran Foran's likely move to the Bulldogs next season.

Matulino could be a vital part of their revival. The Warriors forwards have lacked nothing in work rate and effort this season, but have been found wanting against the top packs.

They struggled against the Storm in round two, weren't at the races against the Dragons and fell away against the Raiders last week.

Matulino can help address that. He is the Warriors' most effective ball carrier, with good footwork.

"Ben will bring another dimension to our forward pack," agreed McFadden.

"He's got a point of difference for us. He bends the line and has a good offload."

Matulino also has something to prove. He's endured a frustrating year, with his recovery from knee surgery delayed by an infection, but will be in the spotlight on Tuesday. With his future at the Warriors under a cloud - as he is reportedly considers an offer from the West Tigers - the 28-year-old will want to remind both parties of his class.

Until the 2013 World Cup, Matulino was considered the premier New Zealand prop in the NRL, but injuries and form lapses have stymied his rise since then, while the Storm's Jesse Bromwich has gone to another level.

The Melbourne clash, in the marquee Tuesday night slot, also presents a perfect stage for Foran and Shaun Johnson to show their wares.

The Warriors badly froze in the equivalent fixture last year, but they seem to have a different make-up this year.

"The build-up has been good," said McFadden, who dismissed concerns that the contract sagas have disrupted preparations. "None of that has shown at training and we feel we are improving week to week."

- NZ Herald

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