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Chanel deserved to play: Brown explains Warriors halves changes

Warriors coach Nathan Brown says Ash Taylor is the back-up No.7 in the squad while Reece Walsh's return from suspension was the reason luckless Kodi Nikorima was pushed out of the 17 for round two.

Plenty of eyebrows were raised on Tuesday when Brown made two changes two his halves, dropping Kodi Nikorima and moving Chanel Harris-Tavita from fullback to five-eighth along with bringing in Ash Taylor to replace the injured Shaun Johnson.

The coach said availability was behind every team change.

"None of the changes are due to performances," Brown said.

"We had a choice to make between Chanel and Kodi and just going on the weekend's performance I certainly thought Chanel was the one that deserved to stay in the team.

"With Reece coming back in Chanel was going to be playing at six or not playing so that was more Reece coming back, if Reece didn't come back Chanel would have stayed at fullback as we were quite happy with his first up hit out there.

"Then we had a choice to make. Chanel spent all pre-season training at numbers of positions, one of them being five-eighth and one of them being fullback and he's earned the right to play, we feel."

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Brown said if Walsh had been available from round one, the initial team could have looked "very very different", but admitted it was a tough one for Nikorima, who he expected to see back in first grade sooner than later.

"Those decisions are never ones you like making when you're leaving someone out of the footy team but when I spoke to Kodi, he understands why I went with Chanel," Brown added.

"We had a good honest conversation and Kodi's probably got an area or two he can help himself a little bit. I'm sure it's not the last we've seen of him. Next time Kodi comes in I'm sure he'll give a good account of himself."

While Johnson (pectoral) and centre Viliame Vailea (knee) will miss around a month or so each and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak around six weeks, Ben Murdoch Masila was the other player dropped from round one.

Brown said this was purely to do with Matt Lodge's return from injury, revealing Murdoch Masila's limited pre-season was the reason for him being the one to make way.

"Lodgey came back in so obviously one of our forwards was not going to play and if truth be told Benny Murdoch had huge surgery last year when he got hurt towards the back end of our last campaign and Benny's just a bit short of a gallop that's all," Brown said.

"So if Lodgey had been fit the week before Benny would've been getting one or two hit-outs at Redcliffe just to get some juice in his legs. That's not a result driven thing, it's more Lodgey coming back and Benny's pre-season."

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Former Titan Ash Taylor has trained all summer as Johnson's back-up and was ready for the challenge despite an interrupted pre-season of his own, according to Brown.

"Ash has always trained for when Shaun wasn't playing, Ash has always trained that (right) side," Brown said.

"That's why we brought Ash here, to give us an experienced half when Shaun wasn't playing."

Despite a hip injury and COVID diagnosis through the pre-season, Taylor was already looking better than in his trial hit-out back in mid-February.

"He's certainly more ready to play now than when he trialled with us," Brown said.

"He's in a much different situation to what he was at the (Gold) Coast. There was a lot of talk around what he was getting paid and being the face of the place whereas here he's a very important player for us but he's no more important than anyone else.

"At the Coast when he was there with the size of his wage there was a lot of pressure on him, I think there's a lot less pressure on him here. He seems excited and seems ready to have a hit-out."

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