Brad Abbey returns from a one-game absence and Joseph Price is set for only his second appearance when the Vodafone Junior Warriors take on the unbeaten Brisbane Broncos in Sunday’s fourth-round NYC encounter at Mount Smart Stadium (11.45am kick-off).
Abbey has been named at fullback after he missed last Saturday’s 29-16 match against the Parramatta Eels.
Back rower Price, who made his debut last year, has been included on a five-man interchange bench. The others are Sheldon Pitama, Roman Tuhimata, Amoni Tufui and Lewis Soosemea who have made their debuts for the Vodafone Junior Warriors in the last two rounds (Pitama after playing for Melbourne last season).
In positional changes, Marata Niukore moves from the second row to play in the centres, Nathaniel Roache switches from the centres to hooker and Ofahiki Ogden is elevated from the bench to start in the second row. Roache’s selection results in Pitama going back to the bench.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors have had two big wins in the last two rounds beating Canberra 44-24 and Parramatta 38-10 last week to lie seventh on the table (the same position as their NRL counterparts).
Against the Eels nine players made more than 100 metres with forwards Toafofoa Sipley (154), Jazz Tevaga (153), Marata Niukore (151), Matiu Love-Henry (146) and Bunty Afoa (135) leading the way.
The Broncos have started the season by beating South Sydney 36-10, Cronulla 36-22 and North Queensland 30-26.
Sunday’s clash comes close to six months since the Vodafone Junior Warriors beat Brisbane 34-32 to claim the NYC title for the third time.
Of the side used by the Vodafone Junior Warriors that day only six remain for this encounter – fullback Brad Abbey, wing Paul Ulberg, hooker Nathaniel Roache, loose forward Jazz Tevaga and front rowers Toafofoa Sipley and Bunty Afoa.
Three of the 2014 NYC grand finalists – Solomone Kata, Tuimoala Lolohea and Sam Lisone – have all been NRL regulars so far this season and will all line up against the Broncos in the 20th anniversary match on Sunday. Another 2014 premiership winner Ken Maumalo was denied his NRL debut in the opening round when he picked up a hamstring injury on the eve of the game.
Interchange prop Albert Vete also plays his fourth straight NRL match after appearing in the 2013 NYC grand final.
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS v BRISBANE BRONCOS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
11.45am, Sunday, March 29
Referee: Shane Rehm
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS
1 BRAD ABBEY
2 TOMAS AOAKE
3 SEMISI TYRELL
4 MARATA NIUKORE
5 PAUL ULBERG
6 ATA HINGANO
7 ERIN CLARK
8 BUNTY AFOA
9 NATHANIEL ROACHE
10 TOAFOFOA SIPLEY (c)
11 OFAHIKI OGDEN
12 MATIU LOVE-HENRY
13 JAZZ TEVAGA
14 SHELDON PITAMA
15 ROMAN TUHIMATA
16 AMONI TUFUI
17 JOSEPH PRICE
18 LEWIS SOOSEMEA
COACH: KELVIN WRIGHT