With the second edition of the NRL Auckland Nines over, the game in its traditional form is now front and centre for the Vodafone Warriors as they eye a feast of football throughout February.
It will take them from Toowoomba to Rotorua followed by visits to Auckland suburban grounds in Glen Eden and Papakura while veteran winger Manu Vatuvei will also be on NRL All Stars duty on the Gold Coast.
Head coach Andrew McFadden was straight into NRL mode today for a programme which starts against Gold Coast in hooker Nathan Friend’s hometown Toowoomba on Saturday (7.00pm kick-off local time).
The Titans, among the Vodafone Warriors’ pool opponents at the Nines, have been regular trials rivals on a home and away basis in recent years (they met at North Harbour Stadium last year).
McFadden has indicated the squad to travel to Toowoomba will comprise players outside the group used for the Nines while the trial against the Penrith Panthers in Rotorua on Saturday, February 14 (3.00pm kick-off) will feature the top side.
“The match in Rotorua will be our most important trial,” he said.
“We’ll be fielding our best side there as we look towards the opening round against Newcastle (on March 7). It’s the only major NRL trial we have this season and also the only one in New Zealand.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity for people from the Bay of Plenty and Waikato region – and also for those travelling from Auckland – to see top NRL players including internationals.”
The night before the Rotorua trial (February 13), Vatuvei is due to make his third appearance for the All Stars in Robina while a football-packed weekend will be rounded out on Sunday, February 15 with a special day in Glen Eden in honour of young Glenora player Luke Tipene.
Tipene, who had been contracted to the Vodafone Warriors’ 2015 NYC squad, died after being attacked early on November 1 last year.
The day will feature a number of trial matches and other events to be announced later this week.
The Vodafone Warriors will round out their preseason preparations with two inter-squad trials and on a community day at Bruce Pulman Park in Papakura on Saturday, February 21.
Further details about the Rotorua and Papakura events will also be released this week.
VODAFONE WARRIORS – TRIALS PROGRAMME
Saturday, February 7 | Titans v Vodafone Warriors, Toowoomba, 7.00pm
Saturday, February 14 | Vodafone Warriors v Panthers, Rotorua, 3.00pm
Sunday, February 15 | Luke Tipene Celebration Day, Glenora, 11.00am
Saturday, February 21 | Inter-squad trials, Papakura, 12.30pm