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Warriors coach Ivan Cleary says the return of star duo Manu Vatuvei and captain Steve Price will provide the spark his side needs to get their ailing season back on track against the Sydney Roosters this week.<br><br>Vatuvei – nicknamed ‘The Beast’ – has been sidelined since he injured his knee against Manly in Round 2 while Price has missed the past two games with a throat problem.<br><br>The Warriors began the season with consecutive wins but have since slumped to three losses on the trot amid a flurry of injury concerns to key players and will head into Saturday’s clash at Mt Smart Stadium minus Wade McKinnon, Lance Hohaia and Brent Tate.<br><br>Cleary, though, says no two players have been missed more than Price and Vatuvei, who averaged 123 and 124 metres respectively in 2008.<br><br>“Pricey is our captain and our leader and was in very good form before he got hurt so he will make a massive difference,” Cleary said.<br><br>“Manu is the other key players for us.<br><br>“Not only are they the two guys that make us the most metres they also take quite a bit of stopping and can make something happen from nothing.<br><br>“Let’s be honest, every side needs their strike players on the field.<br><br>“We talk about the need to learn to win without them, which is true, but it’s a lot easier when they’re playing.<br><br>“They’re handy to have.”<br><br>It’s been a tough start to the year for the Warriors, who enjoyed a brief stint as premiership favourites after downing Parramatta and Manly in their opening two games before losses to Brisbane, South Sydney and Newcastle saw them drop out of the top eight.<br><br>But Cleary is adamant his side hasn’t been too far off the mark in recent weeks, pointing to their casualty ward as the primary reason for falling away.<br><br>“We paid a heavy toll for those first two wins – we lost five internationals,” he said.<br><br>“Aside from the Brisbane game where we were easily out-played, things just haven’t gone our way.<br><br>“We played quite well against Souths but didn’t finish it off and we lacked a bit of urgency against Newcastle… but we’re not far off.<br><br>“It’s about working hard to put ourselves in a better position to win those close games… but as I said it helps having your best players on the field.<br><br>“Hopefully that is reflected this weekend.”<br><br>Cleary rejected suggestions that his side’s early favouritism following their dramatic last-minute win over Manly in Round 2 had toyed with the Warriors’ mindset.<br><br>“I don’t see that being an issue – we were being talked up even before the competition started,” he said.<br><br>“There has been a lot of that this year but we’re aware of that.<br><br>“Someone said to me the other day – and it’s a pretty good point – that you’ve got to be on your game every week just to win half your games.<br><br>“That’s why it’s ridiculous to talk about who might win the comp this early in the season.<br><br>“There is really no team at all this season that you can say is definitely going to win this week or next week – it’s closer than I’ve ever seen it.<br><br>“You’ve got to keep yourself distant from all of that speculation along the way because at the end of the year there are going to be plenty of games you look back on that you could have won or were lucky to get away with.<br><br>“All you can do is work your hardest.”<br><br>The Warriors have also named young prop Ben Matulino on the bench this week after he injured his ankle in Round One, while Lance Hohaia is an outside chance of making a comeback from a knee injury suffered in the same game.
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