Karl Lawton replaces injured Peta Hiku in the centres and Sydney Roosters loan player Poasa Faamausili has been brought straight onto the bench for the Vodafone Warriors’ fourth-round NRL encounter with the Penrith Panthers at Campbelltown Stadium in Sydney on Friday (6.00pm kick-off local time; 8.00pm NZT).
Lawton was thrust into the left centre’s role 25 minutes into last Saturday’s clash against the St George Illawarra Dragons after veteran Hiku was forced off with a rib injury.
In his 55-minute shift in the position Lawton made 95 metres from 10 runs and helped to shore up the left edge defence with 18 tackles and no misses as the Vodafone Warriors opened the resumed NRL season with an 18-0 shutout of the Dragons.
With David Fusitu’a not yet ready to return to play after his late arrival in Australia, Lawton has been called on to start in the centres for just the second time in his career. The first was his debut for the Gold Coast Titans against the Vodafone Warriors in Auckland in 2016.
The 24-year-old Auckland-born Faamausili, who has joined his new teammates on loan this week, is straight into the fray for what will be his 15th NRL appearance. He’s set to become Vodafone Warrior #245 following ex-Canberra Raiders back rower Jack Murchie who had his first outing for his new club last week.
Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Caleb AekinsFullback for Warriors is number 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Winger for Panthers is number 2 Josh MansourWinger for Warriors is number 2 Patrick Herbert
Centre for Panthers is number 3 Dean WhareCentre for Warriors is number 4 Gerard Beale
Centre for Panthers is number 4 Stephen CrichtonCentre for Warriors is number 20 Hayze Perham
Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'oWinger for Warriors is number 21 Adam Pompey
Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Matt BurtonFive-Eighth for Warriors is number 6 Kodi Nikorima
Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Jarome LuaiHalfback for Warriors is number 7 Blake Green
Prop for Panthers is number 8 James TamouProp for Warriors is number 8 Jamayne Taunoa-Brown
Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Apisai KoroisauHooker for Warriors is number 9 Wayde Egan
Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-HarrisProp for Warriors is number 10 Adam Blair
2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau2nd Row for Warriors is number 11 Eliesa Katoa
2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Kurt Capewell2nd Row for Warriors is number 12 Tohu Harris
Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah YeoLock for Warriors is number 13 Isaiah Papali'i
Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Mitch KennyInterchange for Warriors is number 3 Karl Lawton
Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Zane TetevanoInterchange for Warriors is number 14 Jack Murchie
Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Moses LeotaInterchange for Warriors is number 15 Poasa Faamausili
Interchange for Panthers is number 19 Billy BurnsInterchange for Warriors is number 16 King Vuniyayawa
- Referee: Matt Cecchin
- Touch Judge: Tim Roby
- Touch Judge: Drew Oultram
- Video Referee: Ben Galea
- Senior Review Official: Steve Clark
Faamausili comes in for regular front rower Agnatius Paasi, who is serving a one-match suspension for a dangerous contact charge involving St George Illawarra’s Corey Norman.
Filling the vacancy created by Lawton’s move to the starting line-up is ex-Sydney Roosters back rower Josh Curran. The last of his two matches for the Vodafone Warriors was in last year’s season-ending 24-20 win over Canberra; a leg injury ruled him out of contention for this season’s opening two matches against Newcastle and the Raiders.
Vodafone Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney has retained the same starting forward packed used against the Dragons with Adam Blair and Jamayne Taunoa-Brown the starting props, hooker Wayde Egan backing up his 80-minute effort last week and a back row of Tohu Harris, Eliesa Katoa and Isaiah Papali’i.
Egan aside, the forwards all topped 100 metres, Harris the best of them with 219 metres while Katoa made 181, Taunoa-Brown 133, Blair 122 and Papali’i 121. Coming off the bench rookie King Vuniyayawa made 111 metres in his 29 minutes on the field.