The Vodafone Junior Warriors are one win away from reaching the NYC grand final from the bottom half of the top eight for the third season on end.

Last year the Stacey Jones-coached side made history by coming from eighth spot to not only make the decider but to also take the title with a 34-32 win over Brisbane.

In 2013 the Vodafone Junior Warriors were sixth after the regular season, going on to beat South Sydney, the Sydney Roosters and Canterbury-Bankstown to qualify for the season finale only to lose to Penrith.

Under first-year coach Kelvin Wright, the 2015 Vodafone Junior Warriors finished seventh and have so far eliminated the sixth-ranked Sydney Roosters and the third-placed Brisbane to set up a preliminary final against the minor premiers the Penrith Panthers on Friday.

The match (5.15pm kick-off local time; 7.15 NZT) will be played at a neutral venue – Suncorp Stadium – as the curtain-raiser to the NRL preliminary final between Brisbane and the Sydney Roosters. It will be the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ fifth trip across the Tasman Sea in as many weeks.

Wright has named the same side used in last Saturday’s outstanding 45-10 victory over the Broncos with Kauri Aupouri and Ata Hingano down to start in the halves and Erin Clark again at hooker for the injured Casey Lafaele. Clark, who has just turned 18, will be making his 27th appearance in his rookie season, the only player in the squad to play in every match.

The win against Brisbane was the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ 17th in 22 finals encounters since the competition started in 2008.

This week they’ll face a Penrith side which finished the minor premiership with 44 points from 20 wins and just four losses. In the only meeting with the Panthers this year the Vodafone Junior Warriors lost 28-36 at Pepper Stadium last month.

 

VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS v PENRITH PANTHERS

Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

5.15pm, Friday, September 25

 

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 (c)

Interchange:

14 TYLER MOHI

15 MATTAIS HEIMULI

16 AMONI TUFUI

17 TUALIMA TUALIMA

18 CHRIS SIO

COACH | KELVIN WRIGHT