The Vodafone Warriors will field a star-studded array of frontline players on deck in the club’s NRL trial against St George Illawarra at Nelson’s Trafalgar Park on Saturday (5.00pm kick-off).
After indicating earlier in the week that the new-look spine would take the field together for the first time, head coach Andrew McFadden has now confirmed his full starting line-up.
Manu Vatuvei, heading into his 13th NRL season, holds down his customary role on the left wing and incoming Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is at fullback, but the big interest has been focused on the centres and the right wing.
For this final hit-out before the NRL season-opener against Wests Tigers on March 5, McFadden has opted for new signing Blake Ayshford and 2015 rookie of the year Tuimoala Lolohea as the starting centres with Solomone Kata on the right wing.
In the starting front row, the experienced Ben Matulino and Issac Luke are joined by 2015 rookie prop Albert Vete while Simon Mannering is in the second row for his last game as captain alongside his successor Ryan Hoffman. Ligi Sao, back home after a stint with Manly, has the loose forward’s job.
The nine-man bench includes more front row options in Charlie Gubb and James Gavet (who has just been signed after being on trial) plus Sam Lisone; Gubb and Gavet were both outstanding in last Saturday’s 40-18 trial victory over Gold Coast.
NYC-eligible Ata Hingano is again included after impressing in the halves last week. He was one of four NRL Nines squad members used in Whangarei along with Gubb, Vete and wing Ken Maumalo.
Most of the other NRL Nines players come into the line-up this week after missing the Whangarei match – Tuivasa-Sheck, Johnson, Hoffman, Ayshford, Lolohea, Kata, Lisone, Matulino, Jeff Robson, Konrad Hurrell, Nathaniel Roache and Jonathan Wright. The only Nines players not being used in Nelson are Maumalo (turning out for the New South Wales Cup side at the Luke Tipene Celebration Day on Sunday), injured wing Henare Wells and prop Jacob Lillyman; the latter has travelled to Nelson but won’t be playing.
Utility Thomas Leuluai and back rower Bodene Thompson are also in Nelson but won’t be used in the trial.
Backing up from the Gold Coast hit-out are Gubb, Vete, Hingano, Vatuvei, Luke, Sao, Gavet, Ben Henry and Matt Allwood.
The Vodafone Warriors arrived in Nelson today. They have a training run at Trafalgar Park tomorrow 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
Referees: Chris Sutton and Gavin Reynolds
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK
2 SOLOMONE KATA
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD
4 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
13 MANU VATUVEI
6 JEFF ROBSON
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 ALBERT VETE
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 BEN MATULINO
11 SIMON MANNERING (c)
12 RYAN HOFFMAN
14 LIGI SAO
5 MATT ALLWOOD
15 CHARLIE GUBB
16 JAMES GAVET
17 NATHANIEL ROACHE
18 BEN HENRY
21 KONRAD HURRELL
22 JONATHAN WRIGHT
23 SAM LISONE
25 ATA HINGANO