The Warriors hope a stint on the bench will serve as a learning opportunity for livewire fullback Reece Walsh, with interim coach Stacey Jones believing Chanel Harris-Tavita can offer his side a more well-rounded performance at the back this Saturday against the Raiders.
Walsh, who will leave the club at the end of the year for the Broncos, had been the Warriors' first-choice No.1 since Roger Tuivasa-Sheck departed last year, but has now dropped down the pecking order due to inconsistencies in his game, which mostly relate to defence.
Harris-Tavita, who has traditionally been used as a half or hooker, starred at fullback during the homecoming match against the Wests Tigers in round 16 while Walsh was out with COVID, producing a couple of try-saving tackles and contributing plenty in attack.
Garner makes the break but Harris-Tavita saves the day
“We are just looking for a more consistent performance at the back and I thought Chanel a couple of weeks ago really showed that,” Jones said.
“Just a couple of little effort areas, and for Reece it’s probably just a bit of a learning thing for him.
“I thought I needed to make a change in that position and Chanel proved the week before [that he is a good fullback] – more around defence where he works hard and gets the numbers right – and Reece can learn from that.
He gives his all Reece, but he’s got stuff in his game that he needs to learn.Stacey Jones
Senior forward Tohu Harris said if Walsh’s performances on the training field are anything to go by, the message appears to have been received well by to the 20-year-old.
“He came out and trained really well [Wednesday], so I am hoping it’s having the intended effect I think Stace was aiming for, to give him a bit of a kick, to I guess tell him that he’s still not quite there yet as the first-grader he can be,” Harris said.
The future is bright for Reece
“I think he has responded to what has happened really, really well and he had a great training session out on the field, so that seems to be a good sign.
“The consistent grind of the NRL is something he will learn with time and age.”
It isn’t the only change in the spine for the Warriors ahead of round 19, with mid-season recruit Daejarn Asi getting the nod at five-eighth ahead of rookie Ronald Volkman.
Volkman, who debuted in round 15 and then backed up the following week against the Wests Tigers, wasn’t selected in the NRL squad last week after contracting a virus, instead playing for the club’s feeder side the Dolphins in Queensland’s Hostplus Cup.
Harris meanwhile said he is continuing to feel more comfortable in his return from the ruptured ACL which ended his 2021 season, revealing the injury is also the reason for his move to being predominantly a middle forward rather than playing in the second row.
Last Friday’s 28-18 loss to the Eels was arguably the best performance of the year for Harris, who topped the tackle count with 44 and ran for 170 metres in a 70-minute stint.
Tough Tohu's terrific captain's knock
“Defending in the second row is a bit more lateral movement and that was [about] sort of slowly trying to build that up because of the knee,” Harris said.
“I do enjoy playing in the middle a lot more, but if there’s times when I need to play in the back row for the team then I’m certainly willing to do it.
“I still haven’t been thinking about [the knee] in games, which has been positive, and I’ve enjoyed not having to worry about it.”