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Monty Betham will have the dual responsibilities of leading the team and reverting to hooker for the Vodafone Warriors? NRL clash against St George Illawarra in Wollongong on Saturday night.
In his first game back from a six-match suspension, the 27-year-old Betham takes over the captaincy from injured regular leader Steve Price. Apart from the captaincy, 90-game veteran Betham will also find himself back in the No 9 jersey replacing Lance Hohaia, who has been fined $5000 and suspended for one match after breaching club protocol. Vodafone Warriors head coach Tony Kemp said he?s thrilled to have Betham back. ?His return couldn?t be better-timed after losing Steve,? he said. ?We lose Steve?s qualities but with Monty and Ruben Wiki in the forwards we?re still well-served in terms of leadership and seniority.? Asking Betham to play at hooker wasn?t an issue for Kemp. ?With Lance suspended for a breach of internal discipline, Monty comes back at hooker but we have total faith in him playing there and also leading the side. He?s such a valuable player to have, one who?ll play anywhere that helps the team.?
Price is out for up to 12 weeks after suffering medial ligament damage in his right knee in yesterday?s 21-4 win over Wests Tigers. After a scan tonight, it?s likely he?ll have surgery on his knee on Friday. His absence has led to a promotion from the interchange bench for Richard Villasanti, who?ll play his 98th NRL match on Saturday night. Other than those changes, the starting line-up is unchanged from the run-on combination used in the win over the Tigers. ?Villa deserves the chance to start. He has been really solid for us over the last few weeks and now has an opening to make the spot his for quite a while,? said Kemp. Winger Manu Vatuvei is also back in the mix after missing yesterday?s match with a flu infection. However, with his late replacement Clinton Toopi in man-of-the-match form against the Tigers, Vatuvei will be on the bench. ?Clinton took his opportunity through Manu?s absence and you just couldn?t change the combination we had out there,? said Kemp. ?But this isn?t about 13 players. It?s about 17 and, as he did earlier in the season, Manu will have a big part to play from the bench. Also returning to the bench is prop Iafeta Paleaaesina, who missed the last two matches with a knee injury. Evarn Tuimavave will travel as the 18th man. Interchange hooker Tevita Latu has been freed up to play Bartercard Cup football after limited game time recently.
1 BRENT WEBB 2 FRANCIS MELI 3 CLINTON TOOPI 4 JEROME ROPATI 5 TODD BYRNE 6 NATHAN FIEN 7 STACEY JONES 8 RUBEN WIKI 9 MONTY BETHAM (C) 10 RICHARD VILLASANTI 11 LOUIS ANDERSON 12 WAIRANGI KOOPU 13 SIONE FAUMUINA 14 IAFETA PALEAAESINA 15 KARL TEMATA 16 MANU VATUVEI 17 AWEN GUTTENBEIL 18TH MAN: EVARN TUIMAVAVE