After spending the last eight games stuck in reserve grade, Warriors prop Albert Vete is hopeful he can win back the faith of coach Stephen Kearney for the remainder of the NRL season.
Unseen in the Warriors’ top 17 since the Round 3 loss to the Canterbury Bulldogs this year, the 24-year-old prop returns this week in the place of Charlie Gubb for Saturday night’s clash against the Brisbane Broncos in Auckland.
After watching his pack struggle to impose themselves in last week’s 30-14 loss to the St George Illawarra Dragons, a match where they gave up 2039 run metres and missed 57 tackles, Kearney said the time was right for Vete to return to the top side.
“He had a really good game last week [in reserve grade], particularly his second half against Wentworthville, it was NRL standard,” Kearney said.
“He has gone back and worked away at his game. It was worthy of him getting an opportunity to make it back into first grade.”
The disappointing start to 2017 comes after Vete played 15 games last year and averaged 84 metres per game, building his fitness to the point where he played over 40 minutes in the middle of the park in his last three games of the season.
Off-contract at season’s end, Vete expressed relief at being back in the NRL frame.
“I was obviously pretty excited when ‘Mooks’ [Kearney] told me I was going to get another chance to play first grade,” Vete said.
— Albert Vete (@albievete) May 23, 2017
“I think over the last couple of weeks Mooks has been talking to me about how I could get back into the team and he said I just had to be consistent and show him that I can play at that NRL level again.
“Coming off the bench I just sort of want to focus on my job which is being aggressive, getting my carries in and making my presence felt on the field. That’s my strength and if I can add something to the boys when I come on then hopefully that can help.
“The boys starting in the front row do a really good job for us setting the platform and Mooks has always told us that when we get the chance to get on the field to make sure we make an impact and change the game.”
Meanwhile the Warriors have another big inclusion in their pack for Saturday night’s match at Mount Smart Stadium, with former captain Simon Mannering back from a two-week stint on the sideline with a hamstring injury.
The workaholic lock currently leads the Kiwi side’s tackle count with an average of 41.7 per game, missing just 14 in nine appearances so far in 2017, but admitted this week that his hamstring is unlikely to be 100 per cent.
“It’s good enough to play, and touch wood it lasts for the rest of the year, but I am pretty confident in it,” Mannering said.
“I got through a bit of running last week and did most of the session [Tuesday], so feeling pretty good and looking forward to having a run.”