One positional change has been made to the Auckland Vulcans line-up for their New South Wales Cup elimination final against Wests Tigers at Remondis Stadium in Cronulla today (12.00pm kick-off local time; 2.00pm NZT).
Former Vodafone Junior Warrior Agnatius Paasi, originally named in the centres, goes to the interchange while Atelea Nafetalai takes his place in the starting line-up.
Rookie NRL players Ngani Laumape, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Suaia Matagi and Charlie Gubb are all confirmed starters in the sudden-death encounter.
The Vulcans are back in the play-offs after last appearing in 2011 when they were pipped in the grand final by Canterbury-Bankstown.
The match between the sixth-placed Vulcans and the seventh-placed Tigers is the curtain-raiser to the qualifying final between minor premiers the Cronulla Sharks and the fourth-placed Windsor Wolves, Penriths feeder club.
While Laumape made his 14th NRL appearance and Matagi his 11th in the Vodafone Warriors final regular season match against St George Illawarra last Saturday, Taukeiaho was on debut as Vodafone Warrior No 184. Gubb, who had his only NRL outing so far against South Sydney in Perth in July, was 18th man in Wollongong.
The four, who have played extensively in the NSW Cup this season, will bolster a Vulcans side coming off a heavy 6-48 loss to North Sydney in last weekends final regular season game. They join fellow NRL squad members Pita Godinet, Sebastine Ikahihifo and John Palavi as well as former NRL squad member Herman Retzlaff, 2013 Vodafone Junior Warriors Siliva Havili and Viliami Lolohea and former Vodafone Junior Warriors Paasi and Nathaniel Peteru.
The Vulcans are set to face a Wests Tigers side stacked with players with New Zealand connections including former Vodafone Junior Warrior and NRL squad member James Gavet, Josh Davis, Sitaleki Akauola, Eddie Paea, Ava Seumanufagai and Masada Iosefa. As well as Gavet, Akauola, Paea, Seumanufagai and Iosefa, Sean Meaney, Moses Pangai, Matt Groat, Jarrod Farlow and Shaun Spence all have varying degrees of NRL experience.
The regular season meetings between the two sides were both two-point thrillers with the Vulcans winning 26-24 in Auckland in April and the Tigers prevailing 20-18 at Campbelltown Sports Ground in June.
AUCKLAND VULCANS v WESTS TIGERS
Remondis Stadium, Cronulla
12.00pm, Saturday, September 14
Referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
3SIO SIUA TAUKEIAHO
COACH: WILLIE SWANN