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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Two of the NRL's most prolific tacklers will face off in the middle of the park when the Vodafone Warriors face Gold Coast in Sunday's 21st-round clash at Mount Smart Stadium.
Over the last four seasons, Vodafone Warriors loose forward Micheal Luck and Titans hooker Nathan Friend have consistently featured among the competition's top tacklers.
Friend, ranked second behind Canterbury-Bankstown's David Stagg (818) this season, goes into Sunday's contest with 775 tackles in 18 matches - an average of 43.1 a game - while Luck is fifth with 631 in 15 games, an average of 42.1 a game.
Last year Luck ranked third among all players, tackling his way to the Vodafone Warriors' Lion Red Player of the Year title with 1053 tackles in 23 matches, an extraordinary average of almost 46 a game (the highest for any player in the competition) while Friend had 1049 in 26. The previous season Luck headed the list with 957 to Friend's 887 while in 2007 the Vodafone Warrior was also No 1 with 959 and Friend, who had joined the new Gold Coast club from Melbourne, was ninth with 777.
Luck was regularly used as a bench player in his 76 games for the Cowboys from 2001-2005, making a total of 1491 tackles at an average of 19.6 a game but his defensive work rate has almost doubled in his time with the Vodafone Warriors, his 4171 tackles in 113 appearances equating to an average of 36.9 a game.
At his current output, Luck could reach 6000 tackles in his career before he brings up his 200th NRL appearance (in 189 games his has made 5662 tackles).
While Luck continues to set a furious defensive pace, winger Manu Vatuvei is doing likewise with the ball.
He has scored in each of his last six games including a double against Newcastle to give him 13 tries in 12 games and 42 in his last 48 NRL games since the start of the 2008 season. The club record for the most tries during the regular season is Sean Hoppe's 19 in 1995 while Francis Meli scored 23 in 2003 including his record five-try haul in the finals clash against the Bulldogs.
Meanwhile, the Vodafone Warriors trained today and will have their final run tomorrow. The 18-man squad is unchanged from the one named on Tuesday.
Refereeing the game are Tony Archer and Alan Shortall. It's the first time this year Archer has controlled an NRL game involving the Vodafone Warriors and only the third time in the last two seasons.
In Sunday's curtain-raiser the third-placed Vodafone Junior Warriors will be seeking their sixth consecutive win, which would be a record for the club since the NYC was introduced in 2008