NZ Warriors farewell 3 veterans

ruben-wiki.jpgThe New Zealand Warriors will look to ride a wave of emotion tomorrow to keep their NRL finals hopes alive.

Outside the top eight with two rounds to play, they face a virtual sudden-death scenario against Penrith in Auckland, knowing defeat will probably spell the end of their semi-final ambitions.

While the Warriors are battling to keep their season alive, the match will also be the last at home for three club favourites – prop Ruben Wiki, and second- rowers Logan Swann and Wairangi Koopu.

“It would be silly not to use that sort of emotion for our benefit in this game,” back-rower Micheal Luck said.

“Those three guys have been outstanding for this club and it would be sad to see them come off the field for the last time. We have to make sure we play well and bring a bit happiness to the occasion as well.”

A similar situation in late June did produce victory, with the Warriors marking Wiki’s achievement or playing his 300th NRL game by holding out the Wests Tigers 28-26.

Against Penrith, Luck will be making his return to action after two weeks out with a shoulder problem.

The injury ended his streak of 70 successive first-grade appearances since joining the Warriors from North Queensland at the start of 2006.

Luck admitted that being unable to keep the sequence going had been a “pretty big” disappointment.

“In saying that, I had a good run and I was pretty lucky,” he said. “Hopefully, that’s done now and I’m on the field more often than not.”

Penrith are even more desperate for victory, being a point behind the Warriors on the table.

Luck described the Panthers as one of the NRL’s most dangerous sides on attack, pointing to the 46-22 hiding they handed out to the Warriors in Sydney in May.

“They along with Canberra are sides who can put tries on you from anywhere,” he said. 0″Coming from their own end, they can split you open pretty easily.”

Penrith were without skipper Petero Civoniceva for the round-10 clash, with the Kangaroo prop on Queensland State of Origin duty.

Their star that day was Kiwi second-rower Frank Pritchard, who scored two of the Panthers’ eight tries and was also devastating in general play.

Pritchard will likely be missing this time around, after suffering a shoulder problem that saw him leave the field during the 40-6 loss to Melbourne last Monday night.

His early departure against the Storm led to claims, which he has vehemently denied, that he had feigned injury.

The Warriors are also coming off a disappointing loss, beaten 34-6 away to St George Illawarra last Sunday.

After his team’s good run of six wins in seven matches, coach Ivan Cleary blamed poor execution for the defeat to the Dragons.

Cleary wasn’t concerned that there would be plenty of emotion when his players run out at Mt Smart Stadium.

He was confident the occasion of Wiki, Swann and Koopu’s farewell to home fans would be a motivator rather than a distraction.

“You can’t hide from the fact that it’s an emotional game,” he said.

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