Winger Manu Vatuvei warming up with the Vodafone Warriors before their last NRL trial in Rotorua in 2011. Image | www.photosport.co.nz

Several players from the Kiwis’ champion Four Nations squad are in line to feature when the Vodafone Warriors take on Penrith in an NRL trial at Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday, February 14 next year (3.00pm kick-off).

Between them the two sides have nine Four Nations winners in their 2015 squads including Vodafone Warriors Simon Mannering, Manu Vatuvei and Shaun Johnson plus Penrith’s Dean Whare and ex-Vodafone Warrior Lewis Brown who all played in last Saturday night’s 22-18 victory over the Kangaroos.

The Vodafone Warriors’ second trial ahead of their 20th anniversary season in 2015 will be their first in the Geyser City for four years. In 2011 they beat Parramatta 24-4 while in 2010 they accounted for the Sydney Roosters 26-8.

The 2015 Valentine’s Day match will be the central focus of a ‘Festival of Rugby League’.

In his first full season in charge, Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden welcomed the chance to have the team on show in Rotorua.

“It’s always good to get around the country and give members and fans the chance to see the Vodafone Warriors up close,” he said.

“It’s a while since the team has been to Rotorua and the players are looking forward to it and so am I.

“This trial will be really important for us because it will be our last against an NRL side before the season starts. We’ll be looking to field the best side available to give us a good look at how we are shaping for the year ahead.”

The trial will showcase a vast array of current and former internationals as well as ex-Vodafone Warriors in the Penrith side, including coach Ivan Cleary. 

Apart from Mannering, Vatuvei and Johnson the Vodafone Warriors had Thomas Leuluai, Suaia Matagi, Siliva Havili and new signing Bodene Thompson in the Kiwis’ 24-man Four Nations squad while Penrith winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was originally selected before being ruled out with injury.

With the Vodafone Warriors having their first trial against the Titans on the Gold Coast, the Rotorua trial is set to give fans their first chance to see new signings Ryan Hoffman, Matt Allwood and Thompson. Hoffman was in Australia’s Four Nations squad along with Penrith’s Josh Mansour and Matt Moylan.

The quota of Four Nations players in contention to feature in Rotorua doesn’t end there either with the Vodafone Warriors also boasting England fullback Sam Tomkins and Toa Samoa utility Dominique Peyroux.

As well as Brown, Penrith’s squad is heavy on other Kiwi internationals and former Vodafone Warriors in Isaac John, Jeremy Latimore, Sam McKendry, Sika Manu and Elijah Taylor. Other high profile players in Penrith’s squad include Jamal Idris, Brent Kite, James Segeyaro, Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace.

The ‘Festival of Rugby League’ will feature community activities across the weekend plus a nines tournament and age group fixtures on game day to help launch the northern region competition.

  • Tickets go on sale through Ticketmaster from tomorrow (November 25). They can be bought at Ticketmaster outlets nationwide (including the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre in Rotorua), on line at www.ticketmaster.co.nz or by calling 0800 111 999.
  • Prices | $20 for adults, $7.50 for kids, $45 for a family pass (two adults and three kids) and $70 per person for the corporate lounge including food service and own cash bar.