Vatuvei back in NRL boost to Warriors

Manu Vatuvei returns to the Warriors for the first time in more than a month for Saturday’s NRL clash with Brisbane in Auckland.

Vatuvei’s last game was on April 25 against Melbourne.

He was one of six players penalised for breaching team protocol with their off-field behaviour, with allegations surfacing that some players had mixed prescription drugs with energy drinks after the Anzac Day thrashing by the Storm.

Vatuvei turned out for the Warriors’ NSW Cup side against Canterbury on May 1, but has missed the past three NRL games against St George Illawarra, Penrith and Canberra.

He is one of six personnel changes made for the round-13 match at Mount Smart Stadium.

Centre Solomone Kata is back from a one-game suspension, while hooker Nathaniel Roache and forwards Albert Vete, Charlie Gubb and Ligi Sao have all been recalled on a five-man bench.

Coach Andrew McFadden said Vatuvei’s return was a real boost for the team.

“His presence alone means so much to the team and what he brings with his effort is critical to our performance,” he said.

McFadden said Kata would provide an injection of energy, while Roache was returning to his best form from injury.

“Nate was our first-choice interchange dummy-half at the start of the year until he was injured. He’s been back for a few weeks now, and has been playing really well so he comes back in.”

Like the Warriors, Brisbane come into the match off back-to-back-losses, and three defeats from their past four outings.

They also have six players set to back up after lining up for Queensland in Wednesday’s first State of Origin match in Sydney.

Warriors: Tuimoala Lolohea, David Fusitua, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman (capt), Simon Mannering. Res: Nathaniel Roache, Sam Lisone, Albert Vete, Charlie Gubb, Ligi Saw.

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