The Vodafone Warriors are set to have their new-look spine on show for the first time when they face St George Illawarra in their second and final NRL trial at Nelson’s Trafalgar Park on Saturday (5.00pm kick-off).
Head coach Andrew McFadden hasn’t yet revealed his starting line-up for the Mike Pero ‘Battle of Trafalgar’ but has confirmed his intention to field Kiwis Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Johnson and Issac Luke at fullback, halfback and hooker with ex-Cronulla veteran Jeff Robson partnering Johnson in the halves.
“It’ll be exciting having the chance to see our new spine in action for the first time,” said McFadden.
“Issac had his first hit-out against Gold Coast in Whangarei after missing the NRL Nines and now we have the chance to put the combination of our spine players together.
“As well as those four players we have nearly all of our front-line players available for what is a really important trial for us.”
McFadden has highlighted the intense competition for spots in the outside backs and in the front row.
Manu Vatuvei, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Tuimoala Lolohea, Konrad Hurrell and Jonathan Wright are all in the squad to travel to Nelson while the front row options for the trial include Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Albert Vete, Ligi Sao, Sam Lisone and Charlie Gubb plus James Gavet, who has been on trial during the preseason.
Apart from Luke, Vete, Sao, Gubb and Gavet, other players backing up from the trial in Whangarei will be Ben Henry, Ata Hingano and Matt Allwood.
The match will have special significance for captain Simon Mannering who, heading into his 12th NRL season, is eyeing his and the club’s first-ever appearance in his home town.
“It’s terrific for Simon that he has this chance to play in front of family and friends at home for the first time in his career,” said McFadden.
“It’s special for us as a club as well taking NRL football to another part of the country. We’re all looking forward to it.”
The Vodafone Warriors arrive in Nelson on Thursday afternoon. They have a training run at Trafalgar Park on Thursday while they will also make some community appearances.
As well as the trial in Nelson, the Vodafone Warriors will field four teams in other trial matches at the Luke Tipene Celebration Day at Harold Moody Reserve in Glen Eden on Sunday.
A Vodafone Warriors 18s side will take on a Glenora Bears 18s line-up (11.15am kick-off) while there’ll be another trial between the Vodafone Junior Warriors and a Vodafone Warriors selection (1.00pm kick-off). The final game on the programme pits the club’s New South Wales Cup squad against New Zealand Maori. The day starts with an official opening at 9.45am.
MIKE PERO ‘BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR’
VODAFONE WARRIORS v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA
Trafalgar Park, Nelson
5.00pm Saturday, February 20
SIMON MANNERING (c)