Rookie fullback Reece Walsh and seasoned prop Matt Lodge return from suspension while new signings Ash Taylor and Jesse Arthars will make their club debuts in the Vodafone Warriors’ second-round NRL clash against the Gold Coast Titans at Cbus Super Stadium in Robina on Saturday (2.00pm kick-off local time; 5.00pm NZT).
After being forced to miss the season-opening 16-28 loss to St George Illawarra, the 19-year-old Walsh and Lodge (26) will bolster the side significantly, both impressing when they were used in the 30-18 win over Melbourne in the club’s only trial on February 19.
With halfback Shaun Johnson (pectoral) and centre Viliami Vailea (knee) side-lined for up to four weeks after picking up injuries against the Dragons, Taylor and Arthars are tailormade replacements.
Centre Arthars and playmaker Taylor both appeared in the trial against the Storm but were overlooked for selection last week.
Now they both have their first outing for their new club against their old one at their former home ground, New Zealander Arthars as Vodafone Warrior #267 and Taylor as #268.
Match: Titans v Warriors
Round 2 -
Fullback for Titans is number 1 Jayden CampbellFullback for Warriors is number 1 Reece Walsh
Winger for Titans is number 2 Phillip SamiWinger for Warriors is number 2 Adam Pompey
Centre for Titans is number 3 Brian KellyCentre for Warriors is number 3 Jesse Arthars
Centre for Titans is number 4 Patrick HerbertCentre for Warriors is number 4 Rocco Berry
Winger for Titans is number 5 Greg MarzhewWinger for Warriors is number 5 Marcelo Montoya
Five-Eighth for Titans is number 6 AJ BrimsonFive-Eighth for Warriors is number 6 Chanel Harris-Tavita
Halfback for Titans is number 7 Toby SextonHalfback for Warriors is number 7 Ashley Taylor
Prop for Titans is number 8 Moeaki FotuaikaProp for Warriors is number 8 Addin Fonua-Blake
Hooker for Titans is number 9 Erin ClarkHooker for Warriors is number 9 Wayde Egan
Prop for Titans is number 10 Isaac LiuProp for Warriors is number 10 Matthew Lodge
2nd Row for Titans is number 11 David Fifita2nd Row for Warriors is number 11 Euan Aitken
2nd Row for Titans is number 12 Beau Fermor2nd Row for Warriors is number 12 Eliesa Katoa
Lock for Titans is number 13 Tino Fa'asuamaleauiLock for Warriors is number 13 Josh Curran
Interchange for Titans is number 14 Will SmithInterchange for Warriors is number 14 Jazz Tevaga
Interchange for Titans is number 15 Sam LisoneInterchange for Warriors is number 15 Bunty Afoa
Interchange for Titans is number 16 Jaimin JolliffeInterchange for Warriors is number 16 Aaron Pene
Interchange for Titans is number 17 Kevin ProctorInterchange for Warriors is number 17 Bayley Sironen
Replacement for Titans is number 18 Jarrod WallaceReplacement for Warriors is number 18 Kodi Nikorima
- Referee: Adam Gee
- Touch Judge: Todd Smith
- Touch Judge: Nick Morel
- Senior Review Official: Ashley Klein
East Coast Bays Barracudas junior Arthars (23) made his NRL debut with the Titans in 2019, making 12 appearances that year before adding 17 with the Broncos in 2020 and 2021.
Taylor (26) followed his debut with the Broncos in 2015 with 114 games for the Titans from 2016-2021 before the club released him.
He joined the Vodafone Warriors on a train and trial contract for their 2021-2022 preseason before being upgraded to a fulltime deal in January.
As well as missing Johnson and Vailea, the Vodafone Warriors have lost experienced winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, ruled out for six-to-eight weeks with a broken left thumb. He has been replaced by the adaptable Adam Pompey. Now in his fourth NRL season, Pompey made his debut on the wing against Cronulla Sutherland in Wellington 2019 and will be starting in the position for the 14th time in 35 matches on Saturday.
Walsh moves straight into fullback for Chanel Harris-Tavita and Lodge into the starting front row for Bunty Afoa. Harris-Tavita stays in the starting line-up, switched to standoff paired up with Taylor with Kodi Nikorima moved out of the playing 17 (selected as 18th man).
Afoa reverts to the interchange role he has filled for most of his 85-match career. In the squeeze for places on the interchange Ben Murdoch-Masila has been named in #20.
Apart from Lodge in for Afoa, the rest of the starting pack is the same as the one used to face the Dragons.
Saturday’s return to Cbus Super Stadium brings back unpleasant memories for the Vodafone Warriors of their disappointing season-ending 0-44 loss there to the Titans last year. While they have a 17-4 record in their last 21 encounters with the Gold Coast, they’ve lost three of their last six matches between the two sides including three out of four at Robina.
Junior Ratuva is added to the extended which, apart from Nikorima and Murdoch-Masila, comprises Jack Murchie, Pride Petterson-Robati, Taniela Otukolo and Edward Kosi
VODAFONE WARRIORS v GOLD COAST TITANS
Cbus Super Stadium, Robina
5.00pm, Saturday, March 19
1 REECE WALSH
2 ADAM POMPEY
3 JESSE ARTHARS
4 ROCCO BERRY
5 MARCELO MONTOYA
6 CHANEL HARRIS-TAVITA
7 ASH TAYLOR
8 ADDIN FONUA-BLAKE (C)
9 WAYDE EGAN
10 MATT LODGE
11 EUAN AITKEN
12 ELIESA KATOA
13 JOSH CURRAN
14 JAZZ TEVAGA
15 BUNTY AFOA
16 AARON PENE
17 BAYLEY SIRONEN
18 KODI NIKORIMA
20 BEN MURDOCH-MASILA
21 JACK MURCHIE
22 PRIDE PETTERSON-ROBATI
23 TANIELA OTUKOLO
24 JUNIOR RATUVA
25 EDWARD KOSI
Head coach | NATHAN BROWN