The Vodafone Junior Warriors will face Wests Tigers as selected in today’s first-round NYC clash at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
They’re fielding nine debutants in total.
Of the line-up beaten one game short of the 2015 NYC grand final, just second rower Ofahiki Ogden and interchange forwards Mattais Heimuli and Tualima Tualima remain in the side named today.
Others with NYC experience are hooker and captain Sheldon Pitama – returning from a long injury lay-off – wings Lewis Soosemea and Levi McBirney, centre Junior Pauga and standoff Chris Sio (usually a hooker) while halfback Zion Ioka will make his Vodafone Junior Warriors debut after starting his NYC career with Melbourne last season.
Ogden is comfortably the most experienced with 40 NYC appearances in a side missing five of its most experienced players.
Prop Bunty Afoa, the club’s NYC player of the year last season, is out with injury while other eligible players are being used up a level, or two in the case of Nathaniel Roache who makes his NRL debut on Saturday. Ata Hingano, Marata Niukore and Erin Clark have all been chosen to play in the Vodafone Warriors’ Intrust Super Premiership NSW side to take on the Illawarra Cutters on Saturday.
Debuting at fullback this week is Sacred Heart College product and Mount Wellington Warriors junior Kane Telea with centre Melino Fineanganofo the other first-time player in the starting backline. The other debutants are front rower Keanu Dawson and back rowers Joe Vuna and Isaiah Papalii plus Mose Esra, Kenese Kenese and Eddie Wulf on the interchange.
In the first round encounter with Newcastle last year, the Vodafone Junior Warriors had just four players making their debuts.
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS v WESTS TIGERS
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Sydney
3.15pm, Saturday, March 05
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS
1 KANE TELEA
2 LEWIS SOOSEMEA
3 MELINO FINEANGANOFO
4 JUNIOR PAUGA
5 LEVI McBIRNEY
6 CHRIS SIO
7 ZION IOKA
15 MATTAIS HEIMULI
9 SHELDON PITAMA (c)
10 KEANU DAWSON
21 JOSEPH VUNA
12 OFAHIKI OGDEN
13 ISAIAH PAPALII
8 TUALIMA TUALIMA
14 MOSE ESERA
16 KENESE KENESE
17 EDDIE WULF
HEAD COACH | KELVIN WRIGHT