Rookie Isaiah Papali’i has been named to replace the injured Bodene Thompson in the second row for the Vodafone Warriors’ 22nd-round NRL encounter with the Newcastle Knights at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday (3.00pm kick-off local time; 5.00pm NZT).
It will be just the 18-year-old’s second NRL appearance exactly five months since his debut as Vodafone Warrior #215, ironically against the same opponent on the opening day of the season.
On that day Papali’i played 21 minutes in the side’s 26-22 win over the Knights. Since then he has been a regular for the club’s Intrust Super Premiership side and has also made some appearances for the Vodafone Junior Warriors in the NYC.
Thompson suffered a suspected left pectoral injury in last Friday night’s loss to the Cronulla Sharks at Mount Smart Stadium. He will have further assessment this week and is expected to be ruled out for the rest of the season.
The second rower, who turned 29 today, had scored his sixth try of the year to have the Vodafone Warriors just 12-14 behind but less than 10 minutes later he was forced off the field.
The Vodafone Warriors are now without their two most experienced second rowers, the 143-game Thompson joining 301-game veteran Ryan Hoffman (foot) on the casualty list.
Also sidelined with them are halfback Shaun Johnson (knee) and props Albert Vete and James Gavet who both have broken arms. It’s hoped Johnson and Vete will be back for the last round of the regular season, Hoffman’s return is still to be confirmed and Gavet is out for the season.
Hooker Nathaniel Roache has been included on the NRL side’s extended bench this week after recovering from a hamstring injury he picked up against Manly in Perth on July 1.
Prop Charlie Gubb made his comeback from a hernia operation last Saturday, playing 34 minutes in the club’s 32-22 Intrust Super Premiership win over the Mounties. He carried the ball five times for 48 metres and made 20 tackles without a miss.
Thompson’s unavailability means wing David Fusitu’a is now the only player in line to play every game this season with Sam Lisone, Issac Luke, Simon Mannering, Ken Maumalo and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck having missed one game each.
Luke brought up 500 career points with the first of his two conversions against Cronulla last week and long-serving prop Jacob Lillyman this week moves within two games of his 250th NRL outing.
The Vodafone Warriors travel to Newcastle on Thursday to face a Knights side buoyed by its 21-14 victory over eighth-placed St George Illawarra last week. It was only the third win of the season for the last-placed Knights, snapping a run of eight straight losses.
The Vodafone Warriors have a 19-17 edge in the 37 encounters between the sides since 1995 with one match drawn. In 16 matches in Newcastle, the Knights are 9-7 ahead.
The Vodafone Warriors have won the last four clashes but the Knights have won two of the last three matches in Newcastle (2014 and 2015).
VODAFONE WARRIORS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
3.00pm, Saturday, August 5
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)
2 DAVID FUSITU’A
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 KIERAN FORAN
7 MASON LINO
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 BEN MATULINO
11 ISAIAH PAPALI’I
12 BUNTY AFOA
13 SIMON MANNERING
14 MAFOA’AEATA HINGANO
15 SAM LISONE
16 LIGI SAO
17 JAMES BELL
18 JAZZ TEVAGA
20 CHRIS SATAE
21 NATHANIEL ROACHE
22 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY