Under 20's Junior Pauga breaks away from NSW Cup's Daniel Liddicoat during a pre season Rugby League match. NSW Cup v Junior Warriors, Toll Stadium, Whangarei, New Zealand. Saturday 13 February 2016. Copyright Photo: Heath Johnson / www.Photosport.nz

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

Interchange:

8 TUALIMA TUALIMA

14 MOSE ESERA

16 KENESE KENESE

17 EDDIE WULF

HEAD COACH | KELVIN WRIGHT