Our thanks to Andrew Ferguson for his 2014 piece recounting the story of Edward Larkin, who among ot...
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Vice-captain Monty Betham returns from suspension for Stacey Jones? 238th and last NRL appearance for the Vodafone Warriors when they face Manly in Sydney on Saturday night. A one-match ban kept the 27-year-old Betham out of last Saturday night?s clash with Newcastle, Jones? final outing in front of his hometown fans at Ericsson Stadium. But Betham, who became a 100-game NRL player in his last appearance, has been named at loose forward for Jones? absolute farewell match for the side he?s been with for 11 seasons. ?It was disappointing for Monty that he couldn?t play alongside his long-time team-mate last week,? said head coach Tony Kemp. ?Along with Awen Guttenbeil, Monty has been around this club for a long time and he was desperate to be involved in Stacey?s last game.? With Betham back, Louis Anderson has been named to start the Manly match from the interchange bench with Epalahame Lauaki moving out of the squad to travel to Sydney. Apart from Betham?s inclusion, Kemp has retained the same run-on combination used in last weekend?s disappointing 16-4 loss to the Knights. At the same time, the chance has been taken to consider the future with exciting Junior Kiwi back rower Sonny Fai included on a six-man bench. Still only 17, the 1.90m-100kg Fai was one of four Vodafone Warriors who attended the NRL?s rookie camp earlier this year. ?This is a chance to give Sonny some exposure to the NRL scene,? said Kemp. ?He?s an outstanding prospect and a match like this, with our finals prospects now gone, gives us an opportunity to introduce him to the first-grade environment.? Already in the side are two recent graduates from the Vodafone Warriors? elite junior development squad ? centre Simon Mannering and winger Manu Vatuvei. The Manly match will be Mannering?s sixth since his debut against Brisbane in June while Vatuvei will make his 17th appearance, having scored nine tries in 11 games this year. ?When you consider the development we?ve seen this year from Jerome Ropati and Louis Anderson plus Manu and Simon, it?s exciting for next season and beyond,? said Kemp. Ropati (22 matches) and Anderson (17 matches) have been first-choice players throughout the season, missing from the line-up only through injury. Meanwhile, second rower Wairangi Koopu is set to finish the season as the only player in the squad to have appeared in all 24 matches. In a year when he has had his best try-scoring return for a season ? eight so far ? Koopu is also the club?s top tackler with 653, ranking him 10th best in the NRL. Another of the club?s outstanding achievers has been prop Ruben Wiki. Despite missing five matches during the season, he still ranks 18th in the NRL for most hit-ups with 300 and 19th for most metres gained (2590). That?s an average of almost 17 hit-ups and 144 metres a match, ahead of his returns with Canberra last year when he averaged 16 hit-ups and 119 metres a match. Even in defeat last weekend the Vodafone Warriors provided two of the top five metre gainers for the whole round, Steve Price the best of all with 220 metres and Sione Faumuina with 182 metres. In all, 10 of the 17 players made 100 metres or more.
VODAFONE WARRIORS V MANLY
Brookvale Oval, Sydney
7.30pm, Saturday, August 27
VODAFONE WARRIORS TEAM
1 BRENT WEBB 2 MANU VATUVEI 3 CLINTONTOOPI 4 SIMON MANNERING 5 TODD BYRNE 6 SIONE FAUMUINA 7 STACEY JONES 8 RUBEN WIKI 9 NATHAN FIEN 10 STEVE PRICE (C) 11 AWEN GUTTENBEIL 12 WAIRANGI KOOPU 13 MONTY BETHAM 14 IAFETA PALEAAESINA 15 KARL TEMATA 16 JEROME ROPATI 17 LOUIS ANDERSON 20 SONNY FAI 21 FRANCIS MELI