Experienced winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will make his comeback from a four-match injury lay-off when the Vodafone Warriors face the Sydney Roosters in a sixth-round NRL clash which will evoke memories of the grand final meeting between the two sides 20 years ago.
Watene-Zelezniak has been side-lined since breaking his left thumb in the opening minutes of the club’s opening round loss to St George Illawarra.
After having surgery, the Kiwi captain has been rushed straight back slightly ahead of schedule for the special heritage occasion when the Vodafone Warriors and Roosters collide at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday (2.00pm kick-off local time; 4.00pm NZT).
The Vodafone Warriors will wear the iconic jersey instantly associated with the club’s first grand final appearance in 2002 and readily identified with one of the most successful eras in its history.
Predominantly black with blue, red and white trimming, it’s this jersey which is connected with the Vodafone Warriors delivering a string of exceptional performances on their way to reaching the NRL finals for the first time in 2001 and then winning the minor premiership and playing a maiden home final en route to the grand final the following year.
While the Vodafone Warriors will wear a replica 2002 jersey, the Roosters will be kitted out in the white strip modelled on the one they wore in the title showdown.
Head coach Nathan Brown has named a top 17 which shows two changes from the side used in last Friday night’s dramatic 25-24 golden point victory over North Queensland. That sees Eliesa Katoa coming onto the bench replacing Jack Murchie.
Fullback for Roosters is number 1 James TedescoFullback for Warriors is number 1 Reece Walsh
Winger for Roosters is number 2 Daniel TupouWinger for Warriors is number 2 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Centre for Roosters is number 4 Joseph ManuCentre for Warriors is number 3 Jesse Arthars
Centre for Roosters is number 5 Kevin NaiqamaCentre for Warriors is number 4 Adam Pompey
Winger for Roosters is number 23 Joseph SuaaliiWinger for Warriors is number 5 Edward Kosi
Five-Eighth for Roosters is number 6 Sam WalkerFive-Eighth for Warriors is number 6 Chanel Harris-Tavita
Halfback for Roosters is number 7 Luke KearyHalfback for Warriors is number 7 Shaun Johnson
Prop for Roosters is number 8 Jared Waerea-HargreavesProp for Warriors is number 8 Addin Fonua-Blake
Hooker for Roosters is number 24 Drew HutchisonHooker for Warriors is number 9 Wayde Egan
Prop for Roosters is number 10 Lindsay CollinsProp for Warriors is number 16 Aaron Pene
2nd Row for Roosters is number 12 Sitili Tupouniua2nd Row for Warriors is number 11 Euan Aitken
2nd Row for Roosters is number 16 Angus Crichton2nd Row for Warriors is number 12 Bayley Sironen
Lock for Roosters is number 13 Victor RadleyLock for Warriors is number 13 Josh Curran
Interchange for Roosters is number 9 Sam VerrillsInterchange for Warriors is number 14 Kodi Nikorima
Interchange for Roosters is number 11 Nat ButcherInterchange for Warriors is number 15 Bunty Afoa
Interchange for Roosters is number 15 Fletcher BakerInterchange for Warriors is number 17 Eliesa Katoa
Interchange for Roosters is number 22 Daniel Suluka-FifitaInterchange for Warriors is number 18 Taniela Otukolo
Replacement for Roosters is number 18 Lachlan LamReplacement for Warriors is number 25 Valingi Kepu
- Referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
- Touch Judge: Dave Munro
- Touch Judge: Kasey Badger
- Senior Review Official: Alan Shortall
And left winger Marcelo Montoya has been omitted ahead of facing a contrary conduct judicial hearing tonight with Edward Kosi replacing him.
For the third week running head coach Nathan Brown has been able to name the same spine of Reece Walsh, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Shaun Johnson and Wayde Egan while the pack is the same as one that started against the Cowboys last Friday night.
As well as Watene-Zelezniak, young centres Rocco Berry and Viliami Vailea are again on the expanded bench after playing for feeder club Redcliffe in the Queensland Cup last weekend.
With three straight wins over the Wests Tigers, Brisbane and North Queensland, the Vodafone Warriors start the round in seventh spot on the table with six points; the Roosters are also on six points but sit fifth with a better points for and against differential.
The consistently well-performed Roosters will provide the Vodafone Warriors with by far their sternest challenge of the season so far as they strive for a fourth consecutive win.
The home side is coming off wins over the same opponents the Vodafone Warriors have beaten in the last fortnight. After accounting for the Cowboys 28-4 in the fourth round, they had to rally to overcome the Broncos 24-20.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
4.00pm, Sunday, April 17
1 REECE WALSH
2 DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK
3 JESSE ARTHARS
4 ADAM POMPEY
5 EDWARD KOSI
6 CHANEL HARRIS-TAVITA
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 ADDIN FONUA-BLAKE (c)
9 WAYDE EGAN
10 MATT LODGE
11 EUAN AITKEN
12 BAYLEY SIRONEN
13 JOSH CURRAN
14 KODI NIKORIMA
15 BUNTY AFOA
16 AARON PENE
17 ELIESA KATOA
18 TANIELA OTUKOLO
20 VILIAMI VAILEA
21 PRIDE PETTERSON-ROBATI
22 ROCCO BERRY
23 OTUKINEKINA KEPU
24 JUNIOR RATUVA
25 VALINGI KEPU
Head coach | Nathan BROWN