Warriors head coach Luisa Avaiki has named a line-up laden with internationals for the club’s opening match of the 2019 NRLW premiership against the Sydney Roosters at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Saturday (3.05pm kick-off local time; 5.05pm NZT).
Led by new captain Georgia Hale, the starting combination features 10 players from the Kiwi Ferns side which trounced Fetu Samoa in June plus a non-playing member of the squad (Jules Newman).
Also named is seasoned Kiwi Fern Atawhai Tupaea, who has made her return to top level this year after having her second child, as well as Fiji international Timaima Ravisa, one of two Fijian players signed this year.
Not available on compassionate grounds is major signing Honey Hireme, who has been supporting her seriously ill mother.
“Family is everything and we want Honey to do what is right for her,” said Avaiki.
“We know she wants to be playing and hopefully she’ll be available when we have our first home game against St George Illawarra (at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday, September 29).”
The Warriors’ starting line-up features a new-look halves combination, seven players who appeared for the club last year and six who will be making their NRLW debuts.
“The girls are so excited about playing at last. They’re at that point where they just want to get out on the field,” said Avaiki.
“We’ve definitely gone up a level and are much better prepared than we were last year.
“We have a strong group of players who are competing for a spot each week making it a real challenge to pick a team. It means we’ll have some good players who will be left behind this week when we travel to Melbourne.”
The Warriors also opened their season against the Roosters in 2018 when they prevailed 10-4.
Paired in the halves this week will be rookie Kiwi Fern Charntay Poko and Ravisa while wing Madison Bartlett continues a memorable year making her NRLW debut after playing her first Test in June, all this after coming back from operations on both shoulders last year.
Tupaea and Newman are partnered in the centres, Newman switching to rugby league from rugby union only a few months ago.
Back together after starting the season opener last year is the front row of Annetta Nuuausala, Krystal Rota and Aieshaleigh Smalley.
Joining 2018 squad member Crystal Tamarua in the second row is Kathleen Wharton (36), who returned to the game this year after six years off to raise her family.
The Warriors prepared for their campaign with an internal trial while they also had an opposed training session against male opposition when they faced the club’s Jersey Flegg Cup under-20 side.
NRL WOMEN’S PREMIERSHIP
SYDNEY ROOSTERS v WARRIORS
3.05pm, Saturday, September 14, 2019
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referees: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski and Daniel Schwass
1 APII NICHOLLS
2 HILDA MARIU
3 JULES NEWMAN
4 ATAWHAI TUPAEA
5 MADISON BARTLETT
6 TIMAIMA RAVISA
7 CHARNTAY POKO
8 ANNETTA NUUAUSALA
9 KRYSTAL ROTA
10 AIESHALEIGH SMALLEY
11 KATHLEEN WHARTON
12 CRYSTAL TAMARUA
13 GEORGIA HALE (c)
14 KANYON PAUL
15 TASIA SEUMANUFAGAI
16 BILLY-JEAN ALE
17 AMBER KANI
18 ROELA RADINIYAVUNI
21 TANIKA-JAZZ NOBLE-BELL
24 ONJEURLINA LEIATAUA
25 TYLER REID
HEAD COACH | LUISA AVAIKI