Vodafone Junior Warriors regulars David Bhana, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, David Fusitua and Albert Vete will all take a big step forward in their careers when they turn out for the Auckland Vulcans in their New South Wales Cup clash against Cronulla at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday (11.50am kick-off; match day sponsor: New Zealand Herald).
The match is the first of the Super Sunday tripleheader followed by the Vodafone Junior Warriors taking on Brisbane in their NYC contest (1.45pm kick-off) and the Vodafone Warriors facing the Broncos in the NRL encounter (4.05pm kick-off).
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The promotion of the NYC quartet to the Vulcans is in keeping with the clubs plan to prepare young players for the NRL by further developing them in the tougher environment in the New South Wales Cup.
Already this season winger-centre Ngani Laumape and hooker Siliva Havili have regularly appeared for the Vulcans despite still being eligible for the NYC. Indeed Laumape has gone on to make seven NRL appearances.
Havili (20), Bhana (20), Faitala-Mariner (19) and Vete (20) were recently signed on one-year NRL contracts for the 2014 season while Fusitua (18) is NYC-eligible again next year. Laumape is signed on an NRL contract through to the end of 2015.
Faitala-Mariner and Vete, both named on the bench for the Vulcans on Sunday, have appeared in all 14 of the Vodafone Junior Warriors games so far this year while Bhana and Fusitua have missed just one game each.
Bhana will start at loose forward against the Sharks with Fusitua selected on the right wing replacing Bill Tupou, who is headed for Canberra after being granted a release this week from his Vodafone Warriors contract.
Havili has again been included on the bench in the team initially selected. In total 13 of the 18 players named are either current or former Vodafone Junior Warriors.
John Palavi, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Carlos Tuimavave were all NYC-eligible last year while the other Vodafone Junior Warriors graduates are Sam Lousi, Alehana Mara, Charlie Gubb, Nathaniel Peteru and Sebastine Ikahihifo.
The Vulcans go into the match lying seventh in the competition after being denied a fifth straight win when they were headed 20-18 by Wests Tigers last Saturday.
They face the tough challenge of trying to end a perfect start to the season by the Sharks. Their overall record could scarcely be more impressive showing 15 wins, the most points for (475) and the fewest against (192) for a differential of 283 points.
Included in the Cronulla side are Bryce Gibbs, Matthew Wright, Tyrone Peachey, Mark Taufua, Tupou Sopoaga, Stewart Mills and Dayne Weston.
AUCKLAND VULCANS v CRONULLA SHARKS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
11.50am, Sunday, June 30
Referee: Phil Henderson
3SIO SIUA TAUKEIAHO
HEAD COACH: WILLIE SWANN