Powerhouse centre Solomone Kata, one of the Vodafone Junior Warriors' key strike weapons last year, makes his return from injury for the club's seventh-round NYC clash against St George Illawarra at WIN Jubilee Oval in Sydney today (1.10pm kick-off local time; 3.10pm NZT).
Kata excelled representing the Vodafone Warriors at the NRL Auckland Nines but has been sidelined for the first six weeks of the season with an anlkle injury.
He has been brought in on the bench today. Also back from injury is Lafu Feaga'iga, who starts on the wing.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors face a stiff assignment when they chase their fourth win in their last five starts against the Dragons.
When the two sides met in the second round at Eden Park, the Dragons prevailed 40-16 and have so far lost just once this season, that defeat coming on Monday night against Melbourne.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors go into the contest with a three wins-three losses record but their three wins have all come in their last four games, beating North Queensland 50-12, Wests Tigers 26-24 and Canterbury-Bankstown 58-20. Their one loss was against Cronulla (26-32).
The run of form has lifted the Stacey Jones-coached side to seventh on the table at the moment.
Jones doesn’t have use of a number of his so-called ‘senior’ players with the likes of David Fusitua and Tuimoala Lolohea being used in the higher echelons of the club’s three-tiered football programme. Fusitua is set to appear in his second NRL match today while Lolohea was named on the team’s extended bench.
Prop Sam Lisone has also alternated between the NYC and New South Wales Cup sides while key Kata and Feaga'iga have been on the casualty list until today, a list which still includes Ngataua Hukatai and Viliami Kaveinga.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS v VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS
WIN Jubilee Oval, Kogarah
1.10pm (local time), Saturday, April 19
Referee: Matt Noyen and Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 MASON LINO | Playing his 48th NYC match today, Lino is the team’s glue in so many respects. He has a major influence every week, underlining it against the Bulldogs last week with three try assists and two line break assists.
#2 BRAD ABBEY | Abbey’s quality performances so far this season come as no surprise to the club’s football department. He produced his best of the campaign so far against the Bulldogs, popping up regularly to bag a hat-trick.
#3 SAM LISONE | The ex-Tangaroa College pupil has been outstanding so far this year for both the NYC and New South Wales Cup sides, racking up big metres carting the ball up and also working hard defensively.
#4 TOMAS AOAKE (PATELESIO) | Aoako is yet another new face coach Stacey Jones has brought into the NYC side this year – and one who announced himself in the best way possible with two dazzling tries against the Bulldogs last week.
#5 MAFOA’AEATA HINGANO | ‘Ata’ makes his third NYC appearance after two impressive efforts in his first two games at this level. Just 17 but he gives the clear impression he’s comfortable at this level.
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS
1 BRAD ABBEY
23 LAFU FEA'AIGA
3 ADAM TUIMAVAVE-GERRARD
4 KEN MAUMALO
5 TOMAS PATELESIO
6 MAFOA’AEATA HINGANO
7 MASON LINO (c)
8 SAM LISONE (c)
9 KURT ROBINSON
10 TOAFOFOA SIPLEY
24 MICHAEL KI
12 OFAHIKI OGDEN
13 KOUMA STANLEY
15 IULIO AFOA
16 JAMES BELL
17 JAMES TAYLOR
21 SOLOMONE KATA
COACH: STACEY JONES