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Warriors side named for final home game
Long-serving Awen Guttenbeil and Brent Webb make their farewell appearances at home when an unchanged Vodafone Warriors side takes on the Sydney Roosters at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday.
Guttenbeil (30), who has signed for English Super League club Castleford, is again set to defy a nagging calf injury to make his 169th appearance since his debut for the club in 1996.
And Leeds-bound Webb (25) comes off a two-try performance against Melbourne for his 102nd match since starting out with the Vodafone Warriors in 2002.
There?ll be a special family touch to the day for both players. Guttenbeil will as usual have support in the stands from various family members including his parents Wally and Kay while Webb?s mother and father Doug and Ayako are travelling from Cairns for their son?s last appearance at home.
Guttenbeil and Webb are set to make their final appearances in the side?s away clash against Brisbane on Sunday week (September 2).
This weekend?s clash will also be poignant for vice-captain Ruben Wiki when he lifts his career tally to 265 matches, taking sole ownership of the record for most first-grade games by a New Zealander after levelling with Stephen Kearney last Saturday night.
?We?ve had some special achievements to mark lately like Awen?s testimonial match, Webby?s 100th and Ruben?s record,? said head coach Ivan Cleary.
?Now we have Awen and Webby playing at home for the last time before heading to England.
?They?ve both made great contributions to the club and they?ve been outstanding for us this season. It?d be nice to see a decent crowd out to farewell them and also to support the team for the last time this year.?
Cleary has again been unable to include Nathan Fien (back), Tony Martin (shoulder) or Wairangi Koopu (shoulder), meaning the Vodafone Warriors are set to take the same line-up into a match for the third successive week including their young interchange bench of Evarn Tuimavave (22), Epalahame Lauaki (22), Sam Rapira (19) and Cooper Vuna (19).
Despite losing Fien, Martin and Koopu as well as back rower Sione Faumuina, the Vodafone Warriors have again strung together a sequence of three straight victories after accounting for Cronulla (12-10), North Queensland (26-0) and competition leader Melbourne (24-20).
?To win in Melbourne last weekend was a tremendous effort, even more so because we?ve been winning without some of our most experienced players,? said Cleary.
?It really shows how much the players have grown and developed this year.?
Success in Melbourne was achieved through using only 10 of the permitted 12 interchanges with winger Vuna not required to take the field.
The Vodafone Warriors have produced three separate instances this year of winning two or more matches on end, a feat achieved only twice in the two previous seasons. In putting together the latest three-match winning sequence, they?ve scored 11 tries, eight of them by the outside backs with Webb (11) and Manu Vatuvei (10) battling it out to be the club?s leading try scorer this season. Closest to them is 20-year-old centre Simon Mannering with nine tries in 15 games.
The match against the Roosters provides the chance to complete a double against the Sydney side after winning 22-12 at Aussie Stadium in June and also to further boost the club?s win-loss ledger.
The Storm victory was the 11th this year, better than the 10 wins achieved last year with two matches still to play. If the Vodafone Warriors succeed against the Roosters and then Brisbane a week later, they?d finish the year with 13 wins and 11 losses, the fourth best seasonal record in the club?s 12 seasons in existence.
After 22 rounds, the Vodafone Warriors still have the third best points for and against differential ? plus 87 ? in the competition, behind only the top two sides Melbourne and the Bulldogs. Their total of 498 points for is the equal fourth best and their 411 points against ranks them third.
VODAFONE WARRIORS V SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
2.00pm, Sunday, August 27, 2006 Referee: Russell Smith
VODAFONE WARRIORS TEAM:
1 BRENT WEBB 2 PATRICK AH VAN 3 LANCE HOHAIA 4 SIMON MANNERING 5 MANU VATUVEI 6 JEROME ROPATI 7 GRANT ROVELLI 8 RUBEN WIKI (V/C) 9 GEORGE GATIS 10 STEVE PRICE (C) 11 AWEN GUTTENBEIL 12 MICHEAL LUCK 13 LOUIS ANDERSON 14 COOPER VUNA 15 EVARN TUIMAVAVE 16 EPALAHAME LAUAKI 17 SAM RAPIRA