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Warriors star Ben Matulino has been in great form playing in the back row under new coach Andrew McFadden.
As far as timing goes Ben Matulino’s is pretty impeccable.

The 25-year-old big bopper returns from a month-long injury layoff on Saturday night against the Eels, just as the Warriors face a shortage of experienced props ahead of a crucial game in the run towards the finals.

With Sam Rapira out injured and Jacob Lillyman’s availability questionable after playing 47 minutes in Queensland’s 32-8 State of Origin win, Matulino will come off the bench to play front row, despite starring as a second-rower for most of this year.

Along with experience in the forward pack, Matulino brings with him a vital skillset which might go a long way to helping defeat Parramatta at Mount Smart Stadium.

Conceding an average of 12.5 offloads per game, the Eels are the worst in the competition at containing that area of the game, a stat which is music to the ears of a Warriors side who rely heavily on them and have two of the best support players in the game in Sam Tomkins and Shaun Johnson.

 “I don’t think there are many players in the NRL who are as good as Benny is at offloading the ball,” Tomkins observes.

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“He can do it in situations where he has got no right to pass it and it is good for people like me to have him playing.

“We will not be changing our game because they [Parramatta] struggle to handle offloads, we will stick to our game plan and the way we want to play.

“If a part of that is having people like Benny being able to offload, then so be it.”

On average Matulino gets two offloads away per game, a statistic that isn’t overly impressive and is nowhere near the best in the competition.

But it is the quality of his work more than the quantity which is important to the Warriors.

“Ben is obviously very hard to handle and we appreciate the skills he brings to the team,” coach Andrew McFadden said.

“With Jacob [Lillyman] backing up from Origin and Sam Rapira out, Ben’s value as a front-rower is going to be very much needed this weekend.”

Despite taking part in full training sessions this week, Matulino, who returns after an operation to clean up his knee, is expecting a painful comeback.

“I wouldn’t call it 100 per cent, but I think it is good enough to play on,” he said.

“A lot of the boys are playing with injuries at the moment and I think that comes with every team.

“My first time back running on the field with the team was on Saturday and I only lasted the warm-up, the lungs were gone and my legs were pretty sore as well.”

Matulino continues to enjoy one his best seasons on the NRL Fantasy front too, with a 44-point average over the last five rounds and the bonus of being able to play as a second-row and front-row forward.

Heading towards the end of the season he can be expected to receive more minutes, and could be a useful pick up at $277,273.
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