Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden has selected most of the club’s established first-graders for Saturday’s NRL trial against Penrith at Rotorua International Stadium (3.00pm kick-off).
Among those set for the trial are Sam Tomkins, Golden Boot winner Shaun Johnson, just re-signed prop Ben Matulino, new signing Ryan Hoffman, seasoned utility Thomas Leuluai and long-serving front rower Sam Rapira.
Other NRL regulars lining up will be centre Ngani Laumape, standoff Chad Townsend, props Sione Lousi and Suaia Matagi plus new recruits Bodene Thompson and Matt Allwood.
Wing Manu Vatuvei and hooker Nathan Friend will miss the trial due to their commitments with the NRL All Stars for Friday night’s encounter with the Indigenous All Stars.
Not considered were captain Simon Mannering, prop Jacob Lillyman and centre Konrad Hurrell as well as the injured David Fusitu’a, Charlie Gubb, Glen Fisiiahi and Siliva Havili.
“It’s a really important trial for us and we certainly want to win it,” he said.
“We’ve picked the strongest side we can, which was always the plan this week.
“Apart from Manu and Nathan, we’re also without Simon, Jacob and Konrad. They are getting close but aren’t quite right this week so we won’t rush them in.”
Vatuvei and Friend are the only NRL Nines players not involved. Indeed the starting line-up to face the Panthers comprises 12 Nines players plus Leuluai, who will start at hooker and will also captain the side in Mannering’s absence. Four more Nines representatives are on an extended bench of 11 players.
Of the players used in last Saturday night’s 12-22 loss to Gold Coast, Allwood, Marata Niukore, Api Pewhairangi, Nathaniel Roache, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, John Palavi and Albert Vete are on the bench.
VODAFONE WARRIORS | Sam Tomkins; Ken Maumalo, Ngani Laumape, Solomone Kata, Tuimoala Lolohea; Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson; Suaia Matagi, Thomas Leuluai (c), Ben Matulino; Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman; Ben Henry. Interchange: Matt Allwood, Marata Niukore, Api Pewhairangi, Sam Lisone, Nathaniel Roache, Sione Lousi, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, John Palavi, Albert Vete, Sam Rapira, Jazz Tevaga.
The Vodafone Warriors will wear their ‘Zion’ training kit for the trial. Go to www.warriorsstore.co.nz to buy the jersey.
VODAFONE WARRIORS – TRIALS PROGRAMME
Saturday, February 7 | Titans v Vodafone Warriors, Toowoomba | LOST 12-22
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