Viliami Vailea will make his first NRL appearance of the season replacing the experienced Brayden Wiliame in the centres for the One New Zealand Warriors' third-round encounter with North Queensland in Townsville tonight (4.30pm kick-off local time; 7.30pm NZT).
The 30-year-old Wiliame, who started the club's first two matches against Newcastle and the Sydney Roosters, has been ruled out with a calf injury.
Vailea comes in wearing jersey #18 for his 13th NRL appearance. He scored seven tries in 10 first-grade outings last year and started the 2023 campaign with appearances for the club 's New South Wales Cup side in its back-to-back wins over Newcastle and the Roosters.
Hooker Freddy Lussick is 18th man.
Experienced middle forward Jazz Tevaga has also been called up for his first NRL appearance of the season tonight.
The 27-year-old 108-game veteran was promoted from the extended bench last night to replace injured second rower Josh Curran (hip) on the interchange.
The other two players to drop out of the original 22-man squad named on Tuesday were halfback Ronald Volkman and centre Rocco Berry who will turn out for the club's New South Wales Cup side tomorrow.
Fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and second rower Jackson Ford had already been ruled out of the match, so missing the the chance to play alongside captain Tohu Harris in his landmark 200th NRL appearance.
Nicoll-Klokstad and Ford are out after failing to come through NRL concussion protocols.
Ford was on the field for just two minutes of last Saturday’s match against the Sydney Roosters before being taken off after a head knock. He didn’t return.
Nicoll-Klokstad left the field after 53 minutes for a head injury assessment following a collision with Roosters centre Joseph Suaali’i. He also failed concussion protocols and sat out the rest of the match.
In his absence new signing Taine Tuaupiki will become Warrior #279 when he lines up at fullback against the Cowboys.
The 23-year-old hails from the tiny settlement of Taharoa – also home to teammate Te Maire Martin – on the southern side of Kawhia Harbour.
He impressed in the One New Zealand Warriors’ Preseason Challenge clash against the Wests Tigers on February 9 and has scored a try in each of the club’s wins in the opening two rounds of the New South Wales Cup.
Match: Cowboys v Warriors
Round 3 -
Fullback for Cowboys is number 1 Tom ChesterFullback for Warriors is number 1 Taine Tuaupiki
Winger for Cowboys is number 2 Kyle FeldtWinger for Warriors is number 2 Edward Kosi
Centre for Cowboys is number 3 Valentine HolmesCentre for Warriors is number 4 Adam Pompey
Centre for Cowboys is number 4 Gehamat ShibasakiCentre for Warriors is number 18 Viliami Vailea
Winger for Cowboys is number 5 Murray TaulagiWinger for Warriors is number 5 Marcelo Montoya
Five-Eighth for Cowboys is number 6 Tom DeardenFive-Eighth for Warriors is number 6 Te Maire Martin
Halfback for Cowboys is number 7 Chad TownsendHalfback for Warriors is number 7 Shaun Johnson
Prop for Cowboys is number 8 Jordan McLeanProp for Warriors is number 8 Addin Fonua-Blake
Hooker for Cowboys is number 9 Reece RobsonHooker for Warriors is number 9 Wayde Egan
Prop for Cowboys is number 10 Reuben CotterProp for Warriors is number 10 Bunty Afoa
2nd Row for Cowboys is number 11 Coen Hess2nd Row for Warriors is number 11 Mitchell Barnett
2nd Row for Cowboys is number 12 Jeremiah Nanai2nd Row for Warriors is number 12 Marata Niukore
Lock for Cowboys is number 13 Jason TaumaloloLock for Warriors is number 13 Tohu Harris
Interchange for Cowboys is number 14 Jake GranvilleInterchange for Warriors is number 14 Dylan Walker
Interchange for Cowboys is number 15 Griffin NeameInterchange for Warriors is number 16 Bayley Sironen
Interchange for Cowboys is number 16 Jamayne Taunoa-BrownInterchange for Warriors is number 17 Tom Ale
Interchange for Cowboys is number 18 Heilum LukiInterchange for Warriors is number 22 Jazz Tevaga
Replacement for Cowboys is number 19 Brendan ElliotReplacement for Warriors is number 20 Freddy Lussick
- Referee: Chris Sutton
- Touch Judge: Nick Morel
- Touch Judge: Darian Furner
- Senior Review Official: Kasey Badger
He had an exceptional rookie season for the Burleigh Bears in the Queensland Cup last year when he won the Petero Civoniceva Medal as the competition’s best and fairest while also being named the rookie of the year.
With Ford missing, head coach Andrew Webster has moved Mitchell Barnett from prop to the second row while Bunty Afoa has been named to start in the front row.
Coming onto the interchange is Bayley Sironen. As 18th man, he had 14 minutes on the field against the Roosters after the One New Zealand Warriors were able to use him after losing two players to head injuries (Ford and Nicoll-Klokstad).
After missing the last five rounds of last season and the opening match against Newcastle in Wellington, Tevaga made his comeback with a 32-minute stint in the New South Wales Cup last Saturday when he made 104 metres from nine runs plus 15 tackles without a miss.
A special focus for the One New Zealand Warriors this week is marking the superb Harris’ 200th NRL appearance.
The 31-year-old has started the 2023 campaign exceptionally collecting seven Dally M points in the first two games to sit second on the leader board.
Used for the full 80 minutes against both Newcastle and the Roosters, he has made a total of 111 tackles already – 60 against the Roosters on Saturday – and averaged 144.50 metres a game.
Playing his 99th career game this week will be second rower Marata Niukore leaving him set to reach the 100-mark in the One New Zealand Warriors’ first match of the season at Mount Smart Stadium when they face the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs on March 26.
Both sides go into this week’s contest with identical win-loss starts to the season, the Warriors following their 20-12 win against Newcastle with a 12-20 loss to the Roosters while the Cowboys beat Canberra 19-18 before losing 16-28 to Brisbane last week.