A groin injury has returned to haunt Warriors standoff Thomas Leuluai, who is ruled out in one of three changes to the team to face Melbourne in Friday’s Anzac Day NRL clash.
Leuluai is replaced by Chad Townsend for the annual match in Melbourne while Jason Bukuya is in the second row in place of Dominique Peyroux.
Feleti Mateo will make a return via the interchange bench, taking the place of Charlie Gubb.
Townsend started the first five games of the season but was dropped to the Warriors’ reserve team when Andrew McFadden inherited the coaching reins from Matthew Elliott.
However, Leuluai’s groin problem, which surfaced early in last year’s World Cup campaign and ruled him out of the first month of the NRL season, has flared again and forced McFadden’s hand.
He hopes Leuluai will be fit for the club’s following match against Canberra on May 10.
The injury may impact on the 28-year-old’s availability for the Kiwis in the Anzac Test against Australia in Sydney on May 2.
“We’re managing Thomas through his injury,” McFadden said.
“He needs time off to rest it. It was difficult leaving (Chad) out a couple of weeks ago but he has maintained his form in the NSW Cup.”
Mateo was also dropped to reserves two weeks ago following a modest start to the campaign, with McFadden hopeful the demotion will spark the ball-playing forward into better performances.
Bukuya was named to start against Canterbury and St George Illawarra in their past two games but was a late withdrawal with a foot injury.
McFadden is confident the former Shark will return this week after being close to playing in the 20-10 loss to the Dragons on Saturday.
The 15th-placed Warriors are on a three-game losing streak and face a ninth-placed Storm side who have lost three of their past four.
Sam Tomkins, David Fusitua, Dane Nielsen, Ngani Laumape, Manu Vatuvei, Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Jacob Lillyman, Jayson Bukuya, Simon Mannering, Sebastine Ikahihifo. Res: Ben Henry, Suaia Matagi, Siliva Havili, Feleti Mateo.