Key players are back from New South Wales Cup duty for the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ vital 25th-round NYC encounter with Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Sunday (11.45am kick-off local time; 1.45pm NZT).
With two rounds to go in the regular season, the Vodafone Junior Warriors sit eighth on the table on 25 points just one point ahead of Newcastle and two ahead of Melbourne.
After this week’s match the Vodafone Junior Warriors face Canterbury-Bankstown (22 points) in the final round while Newcastle meets the Bulldogs tomorrow and the second-placed Penrith Panthers in the 26th round.
With just one win in their last five starts, the Vodafone Junior Warriors will take on the sixth-placed Wests Tigers boosted by the return of left wing Tomas Aoake, centre Marata Niukore and standoff Ata Hingano. They’ve been regulars for the club’s NSW Cup in recent weeks with Hingano making eight appearances, Niukore six and Aoake five.
Prop Bunty Afoa also made his NSW Cup debut last Saturday on what was a hectic day. He followed up a 29-minute stint in the NSW Cup (68 metres from seven runs, 20 tackles with no misses) with 53 minutes in all for the Vodafone Junior Warriors against the Cowboys (114 metres from nine runs, 30 tackles, one miss and no errors).
Afoa, who is still eligible for the grade next year, will play his 49th NYC match this week as will fullback Brad Abbey, leaving them set to become the 13th and 14th players to appear in 50 NYC games for the club in the final regular season match against the Bulldogs.
Afoa and rookie Erin Clark are the only players who have appeared in all 23 matches for the Vodafone Junior Warriors this season.
While the defending premiers have had just one win since beating the Roosters in round 19, the Tigers have won three of their last four beating Melbourne 34-18, losing 34-36 to Canberra and trouncing Newcastle 54-12 and Cronulla 46-20 in the past fortnight.
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS v WESTS TIGERS
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Sydney
2.00pm, Sunday, August 30
Referees: Adam Gee and Lawrie McDonell
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS
1 BRAD ABBEY
2 TOMAS AOAKE
3 MARATA NIUKORE
4 SEMISI TYRELL
5 PAUL ULBERG
6 ATA HINGANO
7 KAURI AUPOURI
8 BUNTY AFOA
9 ERIN CLARK
10 PAUL TULI
11 OFAHIKI OGDEN
12 MATIU LOVE-HENRY
13 JAZZ TEVAGA
14 CASEY LAFAELE
15 LEWIS SOOSEMEA
16 TUALIMA TUALIMA
17 AMONI TUFUI
COACH: KELVIN WRIGHT