Dunedin Trial | Nines stars on deck
Vodafone Warriors captain Simon Mannering (pictured) and NRL Nines stars Shaun Johnson and Sam Tomkins will have their only NRL trial of the season when they face the Brisbane Broncos at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Sunday (3.00pm kick-off). Photo: Photosport
Mannering (27), nearing the club’s record for most NRL appearances as captain, has been kept out of action until now following a gruelling 2013 schedule with both the Vodafone Warriors and the Kiwis.
Johnson and Tomkins sat out last week’s Gold Coast and Wigan trials to prepare for the Nines. They excelled in the club’s run to the semi-finals with Johnson capturing the tournament’s MVP award after scoring four five-point bonus tries.
Also included in the 22-man squad named by head coach Matt Elliott are another 11 of the club’s Eden Park Nines players along with 100 games-plus NRL veterans Jerome Ropati, Ben Matulino, Sam Rapira, Jacob Lillyman, Nathan Friend and Feleti Mateo.
As well as Tomkins fellow new signings Jayson Bukuya and Chad Townsend will also line up. Townsend had his first outing for the club in last Wednesday while this will be Bukuya’s first NRL trial for the Vodafone Warriors.
“We always said we would field our best side available and we’re doing that,” said Elliott.
“There’s plenty of quality in this squad, not least the players we had at the Nines who all did a terrific job representing the club at Eden Park.
“People in the Otago and Southland areas should really make a real effort to get along to this game. It’s a great opportunity to see two exceptional talents in Shaun and Sam not to mention the rest of the players we’ll be bringing with us.
“Shaun’s a known quantity and, while we were well aware we were getting someone special with Sam, the New Zealand public saw for themselves last weekend why we’re so excited to have him at the Vodafone Warriors.”
Elliott said he was tempted to play try-scoring record holder Manu Vatuvei but has opted to continue to prepare him for the opening-round encounter with the Parramatta Eels on March 09.
Apart from Johnson and Tomkins, the other Nines players being used are Bukuya, Suaia Matagi (also named in the team of the tournament at the Nines), exciting standoff-halfback Tuimoala Lolohea, Sione Lousi, Glen Fisiiahi, Konrad Hurrell, Charlie Gubb, Dominique Peyroux, Carlos Tuimavave, Solomone Kata and David Fusitua.
In the historic first match between the two clubs in Dunedin last year the Vodafone Warriors won 16-10 against a strong Broncos line-up.
The squad for the trial is: Jayson Bukuya, Glen Fisiiahi, Nathan Friend, David Fusitua, Charlie Gubb, Konrad Hurrell, Shaun Johnson, Solomone Kata, Jacob Lillyman, Tuimoala Lolohea, Sione Lousi, Simon Mannering (captain), Suaia Matagi, Feleti Mateo, Ben Matulino, John Palavi, Dominique Peyroux, Sam Rapira, Jerome Ropati, Sam Tomkins, Chad Townsend, Carlos Tuimavave.