Experienced prop Sam Lisone is set to make his return from injury but the Vodafone Junior Warriors will be without three of their regulars for Sunday’s 16th-round NYC clash against Penrith at Mount Smart Stadium (1.45pm kick-off; match day sponsor: DEWALT).
While the encounter pits last year’s NYC grand finalists against each other the Vodafone Junior Warriors will be using a vastly different group of players.
Indeed their only survivors for this match-up from the 30-42 loss on grand final day last season are Lisone, Metia Lisati, Mason Lino and Kouma Samson.
Another would have been dependable utility Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard but he will again be missing with injury after being forced out for last Saturday’s 18-36 loss to Brisbane.
Added to the casualty list are centre Ken Maumalo and back rower Matiu Love-Henry. Maumalo was able to play just 14 minutes against the Broncos while Love-Henry was helped off the field late in the contest with a knee injury.
Last week coach Stacey Jones brought Semisi Tyrell back in the centres for only his second appearance of the season; Tyrell obliged by completing a consolation hat-trick in the space of 16 minutes late in the game for all his side’s points.
Tyrell is again in the team this week joined in the centres by utility Nathaniel Roache who has filled roles in the halves and at hooker previously this season.
Lisone’s return results in Samson moving to the bench while the back row has been rearranged due to the injuries to Maumalo and Love-Henry; Ofahiki joins Toafofoa Sipley in the second row with James Bell starting at loose forward in his 12th appearance this year.
Jazz Tevaga and Paul Tuli join Samson on the bench along with debutant Marata Niukore, who will become the 36th player used by the Vodafone Junior Warriors in 2014.
Niukore impressed for Aorere College in last year's inaugural College Rugby League Premier First XIII Competition; he was one of seven players to win scholarships with the Vodafone Warriors while he also trialled with the Sydney Roosters’ SG Ball side in the off-season. He has been impressive for the Howick Hornets in Auckland’s Fox Memorial championship this year.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors remain inside the top eight heading into Sunday’s match against Penrith, slipping just a spot to eighth despite their loss to Brisbane. The Panthers sit two points ahead of them on 18 but have had both of their byes.
Lino needs just one point against Penrith to become only the second Vodafone Junior Warrior to score 400 NYC points (Shaun Johnson was the first). Lino’s three goals from three attempts against the Broncos boosted his tally to 399 points in his third and final NYC campaign.
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS v PENRITH PANTHERS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
1.45pm, Sunday, June 29
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS
1 BRAD ABBEY
2 PAUL ULBERG
3 SEMISI TYRELL
4 NATHANIEL ROACHE
5 METIA LISATI
6 MAFOA’AEATA HINGANO
7 MASON LINO (c)
8 IULIO AFOA
9 KURT ROBINSON
10 SAM LISONE (c)
11 TOAFOFOA SIPLEY
12 OFAHIKI OGDEN
13 JAMES BELL
14 JAZZ TEVAGA
15 KOUMA SAMSON
16 PAUL TULI
17 MARATA NIUKORE
COACH: STACEY JONES