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Vatuvei Not Named But Could Make NRL Return Against Newcastle

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Vatuvei Not Named But Could Make NRL Return Against Newcastle

7 April 2009 - Winger Manu Vatuvei is rated a chance of making his return from injury for the Vodafone Warriors' fifth-round NRL clash against Newcastle at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Sunday.

Vodafone Warriors coach Ivan Cleary didn't name Vatuvei today for the second away game of the year but said the 23-year-old could yet be included.

However, while captain Steve Price (throat), utility Lance Hohaia (knee) and second rower Ben Matulino (ankle) were making progress, Cleary said they wouldn't be ready this weekend. It was hoped they'd be in contention for the round six home game against the Sydney Roosters on April 19.

Vatuvei has been sidelined with a knee cartilage injury since the second round victory over Manly, when he scored his 46th career try in his 77th NRL appearance.

"We'll see how Manu goes during the week but at this stage he's a chance of being included," said Cleary.

"The one good thing to come out of the match against the Rabbitohs was that we didn't add to our injury list. In fact, we finished a match with a full bench for the first time this year and now we'll hopefully see some of the injured players returning."

With Vatuvei not being named, Cleary today listed the same 17 players used in last Sunday's 16-22 loss to South Sydney at Mount Smart Stadium. That sees young props Russell Packer (19) and Sam Rapira (22) again listed to start after impressive efforts against the Rabbitohs.

Packer, voted the players' player of the day, had 19 runs on Sunday, the best for the match along with fullback Wade McKinnon and centre Jerome Ropati. He gained 156 metres and also made 35 tackles with no misses. Rapira gained 114 metres from 14 carries and made 20 tackles without a miss.

McKinnon and Ropati also had outstanding statistics, McKinnon making 205 metres - and scoring his first try of the year - and Ropati 189 metres. McKinnon is again underlining his value this season, ranking third among all players for most metres gained (593 in four matches), third for most kick return metres (250) and third for most tackle breaks (21).

While disappointed with the result, Cleary said there was no issue with the effort against South Sydney.

"It's a game we had every chance to win but we just couldn't put it away," he said.

"There's no let-up, though. Now we face the Knights at one of the most challenging venues there is in the NRL and they're also in excellent form after an impressive performance against Manly last Sunday."

World Cup winner Ropati (24), a 10-test Kiwi international, is the next Vodafone Warrior in line to reach a major milestone.

He'll play his 96th NRL match on Sunday, leaving him in line to make his 100th appearance in the May 17 home game against North Queensland. Recently re-signed on a deal that will make him a rare 10-year Vodafone Warrior, he's set to be the 14th player to reach the 100-game mark for the club after Nathan Fien became No 14 last weekend.

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