All seven new signings will line up for the Vodafone Warriors for the first time in the club’s only NRL trial against the Gold Coast Titans at Oakes Oval in Lismore tonight (5.50pm kick-off local time; 7.50pm NZT).
Five of the newcomers – winger Marcelo Montoya, centre Euan Aitken, halfback Sean O'Sullivan, prop Addin Fonua-Blake and second rower Bayley Sironen – are all confirmed in the starting combination while middle forwards Ben Murdoch-Masila and Kane Evans are listed on a 10-man interchange.
The match is also be head coach Nathan Brown’s first outing in charge as he sets his side for the first of two match-ups against the Titans in the space of two weeks.
The two sides face each other again in their opening game of the NRL season at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford on March 13.
The Vodafone Warriors are without first-choice second rower Eliesa Katoa; it’s hoped he will recover from a cheekbone injury to be available for the first round. Also missing is experienced winger David Fusitu’a, who is resting a knock but is expected to be ready for round one, and halfback Chanel Harris-Tavita was ruled out after initially being included. Brown said he was having issues with a quadricep issue in his left leg and didn't want to risk him.
“We’re fielding the strongest side available in what is a vital trial for us,” said Brown.
Missing out on a trial last weekend was disappointing but we will just roll with what we haveNathan Brown Vodafone Warriors head coach
“Missing out on a trial last weekend was disappointing but we will just roll with what we have.
“It’s a great opportunity to try our new players, look at combinations and also to bring back a couple of players from long injury lay-offs.”
Fonua-Blake and the club’s 2020 rookie of the year Jamayne Taunoa-Brown are the starting props with Wayde Egan at hooker, Tohu Harris in the middle in #13 and Sironen paired in the second row with Josh Curran coming in for the injured Katoa.
Featuring among the players on the bench are props Bunty Afoa and Leeson Ah Mau who make their return. Afoa missed the entire 2020 campaign with an ACL injury while Ah Mau returned home with a pectoral injury when the team was in quarantine ahead of the season resumption in May after the Covid-19 enforced suspension. He appeared in only the opening two games against Newcastle and Canberra in March.
Former Vodafone Warriors Patrick Herbert, Sam Lisone and Erin Clark have been named in Gold Coast’s line-up.
The trip to Lismore has personal significance for both Brown and assistant coach Craig Hodges, taking them back to familiar surroundings in the New South Wales North Coast region. It’s Hodges’ hometown while Brown is from Maclean, a little more than 80 kilometres south of Lismore.
The Vodafone Warriors have played at the venue previously, beating the Titans 34-12 in a trial there in 2009.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v GOLD COAST TITANS
5.50pm, Saturday, February 27, 2021
Oakes Oval, Lismore
Referee: Ben Cummins
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)
2 KEN MAUMALO
3 EUAN AITKEN
4 PETA HIKU
14 MARCELO MONTOYA
6 KODI NIKORIMA
20 SEAN O'SULLIVAN
8 ADDIN FONUA-BLAKE
9 WAYDE EGAN
10 JAMAYNE TAUNOA-BROWN
21 JOSH CURRAN
12 BAYLEY SIRONEN
13 TOHU HARRIS
5 ADAM POMPEY
11 BEN MURDOCH-MASILA
15 KANE EVANS
17 ROCCO BERRY
18 PAUL TURNER
23 HAYZE PERHAM
25 JAZZ TEVAGA
26 JACK MURCHIE
27 BUNTY AFOA
28 LEESON AH MAU
HEAD COACH | NATHAN BROWN