Covid, illness and injury have impacted on the Vodafone Warriors’ selection plans for a triple milestone 18th-round encounter with the Parramatta Eels at CommBank Stadium in Sydney on Friday (7.55pm kick-off local time; 9.55pm NZT).
Experienced winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Covid), rookie half Ronald Volkman (virus) and back rower Bayley Sironen (fractured eye socket) have all been ruled out after helping the Vodafone Warriors to their 22-2 homecoming win over the Wests Tigers at Mount Smart Stadium on July 3.
Interim head coach Stacey Jones has also been isolating after a positive Covid test; it’s yet to be determined whether he will be able to join the team in Sydney.
Watene-Zelezniak’s absence sees 2021 rookie winger Edward Kosi back in the NRL side for the first time since the Anzac Day loss to Melbourne.
The 23-year-old has been performing impressively for feeder club Redcliffe in the Hostplus Cup in Queensland helping the side to a seven-match unbeaten run; Kosi has scored seven tries in his last five matches and is averaging almost 160 metres a game so far this season.
Volkman, unable to train this week as he battles a virus, has been replaced at standoff by Chanel Harris-Tavita.
And Sironen, injured against the Tigers, is replaced on the interchange by Jack Murchie, who was a late scratching from the Mount Smart match with a leg injury.
Back at fullback is Reece Walsh after missing the homecoming win following a positive Covid test.
There’s a shuffle in the starting forward pack with captain Tohu Harris relinquishing the #12 jersey to be listed as a starting prop in #10 alongside Addin Fonua-Blake. Jazz Tevaga, who has been selected in #10 the past five matches, reverts to his favoured role at loose forward in #13.
Match: Eels v Warriors
Round 18 -
Fullback for Eels is number 1 Clinton GuthersonFullback for Warriors is number 1 Reece Walsh
Winger for Eels is number 2 Maika SivoWinger for Warriors is number 2 Marcelo Montoya
Centre for Eels is number 3 Will PenisiniCentre for Warriors is number 3 Jesse Arthars
Centre for Eels is number 4 Waqa BlakeCentre for Warriors is number 4 Adam Pompey
Winger for Eels is number 5 Bailey SimonssonWinger for Warriors is number 5 Edward Kosi
Five-Eighth for Eels is number 6 Dylan BrownFive-Eighth for Warriors is number 6 Chanel Harris-Tavita
Halfback for Eels is number 7 Mitchell MosesHalfback for Warriors is number 7 Shaun Johnson
Prop for Eels is number 8 Reagan Campbell-GillardProp for Warriors is number 10 Tohu Harris
Hooker for Eels is number 9 Reed MahoneyHooker for Warriors is number 9 Wayde Egan
Prop for Eels is number 10 Junior PauloProp for Warriors is number 16 Aaron Pene
2nd Row for Eels is number 11 Shaun Lane2nd Row for Warriors is number 11 Euan Aitken
2nd Row for Eels is number 12 Isaiah Papali'i2nd Row for Warriors is number 12 Josh Curran
Lock for Eels is number 13 Marata NiukoreLock for Warriors is number 13 Jazz Tevaga
Interchange for Eels is number 14 Makahesi MakatoaInterchange for Warriors is number 8 Addin Fonua-Blake
Interchange for Eels is number 15 Jake ArthurInterchange for Warriors is number 14 Freddy Lussick
Interchange for Eels is number 16 Oregon KaufusiInterchange for Warriors is number 15 Bunty Afoa
Interchange for Eels is number 17 Ky RodwellInterchange for Warriors is number 17 Jack Murchie
Replacement for Eels is number 19 Elie El-ZakhamReplacement for Warriors is number 18 Eliesa Katoa
- Referee: Todd Smith
- Touch Judge: Kasey Badger
- Touch Judge: Darian Furner
- Senior Review Official: Chris Butler
Friday night’s match will serve as a milestone celebration for three players.
Local products Harris-Tavita and Adam Pompey will make their 50th first-grade appearances after they each debuted in 2019.
And second rower Aitken (27) joins the competition’s 150-game club in his 29th outing as a Vodafone Warrior after playing 121 times for the St George Illawarra Dragons from 2015-2020.
Harris-Tavita produced an outstanding player of the day display after being called in to fill the fullback’s position in the win over the Wests Tigers on July 3. As well as scoring a try he made 153 metres from 17 runs while he had a line break and four tackle breaks.
Pompey was a late inclusion for the Mount Smart Stadium homecoming, coming into the side when Aitken was moved back to the second row after Jack Murchie was ruled out with a leg injury. He retains his place in the centres against the Eels while Aitken starts in the back row for the 15th time this season.
The Vodafone Warriors, who marked their homecoming with the club’s 300th victory, have a 5-5 record in their last 10 clashes against the Eels.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v PARRAMATTA EELS
CommBank Stadium, Sydney
7.55pm, Friday, July 15
1 REECE WALSH
2 MARCELO MONTOYA
3 JESSE ARTHARS
4 ADAM POMPEY
5 EDWARD KOSI
6 CHANEL HARRIS-TAVITA
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 ADDIN FONUA-BLAKE
9 WAYDE EGAN
10 TOHU HARRIS (c)
11 EUAN AITKEN
12 JOSH CURRAN
13 JAZZ TEVAGA
14 FREDDY LUSSICK
15 BUNTY AFOA
16 AARON PENE
17 JACK MURCHIE
18 ELIESA KATOA
20 ROCCO BERRY
21 DAEJARN ASI
22 PRIDE PETTERSON-ROBATI
23 JACKSON FREI
Head coach | STACEY JONES