Second rower Josh Curran returns from suspension while prop Bunty Afoa has been ruled out for the One New Zealand Warriors’ 20th-round NRL encounter with Cronulla Sutherland at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart on Sunday (4.00pm kick-off).
The 26-year-old Afoa is out for a week as he follows NRL concussion protocols after receiving a head knock in Saturday night’s emphatic 46-10 win over Parramatta.
His absence results in Mitchell Barnett moving to prop with Curran filling his spot in the second row after completing a two-game suspension handed to him by the NRL.
Afoa, one of six players to appear in the first 17 matches this season, ends a run of 48 consecutive appearances stretching back to mid-July 2021.
While One New Zealand Warriors head coach Andrew Webster has been forced to adjust his forward pack, the backline remains unchanged for the fourth match running.
Wingers Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Marcelo Montoya have both been in impressive try-scoring form. Watene-Zelezniak has scored 13 tries (his most in a season) in 11 games, 11 of them in his last seven outings, while Montoya’s early double against the Eels boosted his tally to eight, the side’s second top try scorer.
Match: Warriors v Sharks
Round 20 -
Fullback for Warriors is number 1 Charnze Nicoll-KlokstadFullback for Sharks is number 1 William Kennedy
Winger for Warriors is number 2 Dallin Watene-ZelezniakWinger for Sharks is number 2 Sione Katoa
Centre for Warriors is number 3 Rocco BerryCentre for Sharks is number 3 Jesse Ramien
Centre for Warriors is number 4 Adam PompeyCentre for Sharks is number 4 Siosifa Talakai
Winger for Warriors is number 5 Marcelo MontoyaWinger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo Mulitalo
Five-Eighth for Warriors is number 6 Luke MetcalfFive-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Matt Moylan
Halfback for Warriors is number 7 Shaun JohnsonHalfback for Sharks is number 7 Nicholas Hynes
Prop for Warriors is number 8 Addin Fonua-BlakeProp for Sharks is number 8 Oregon Kaufusi
Hooker for Warriors is number 9 Wayde EganHooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke Brailey
Prop for Warriors is number 16 Tom AleProp for Sharks is number 10 Toby Rudolf
2nd Row for Warriors is number 10 Mitchell Barnett2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora
2nd Row for Warriors is number 11 Jackson Ford2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Teig Wilton
Lock for Warriors is number 13 Tohu HarrisLock for Sharks is number 13 Cameron McInnes
Interchange for Warriors is number 12 Josh CurranInterchange for Sharks is number 14 Wade Graham
Interchange for Warriors is number 14 Freddy LussickInterchange for Sharks is number 15 Thomas Hazelton
Interchange for Warriors is number 15 Bayley SironenInterchange for Sharks is number 16 Jack Williams
Interchange for Warriors is number 17 Dylan WalkerInterchange for Sharks is number 17 Jesse Colquhoun
Replacement for Warriors is number 23 Viliami VaileaReplacement for Sharks is number 18 Connor Tracey
- Referee: Gerard Sutton
- Touch Judge: Liam Kennedy
- Senior Review Official: Matt Noyen
The Warriors head into Sunday’s contest on the back of four convincing wins in their last five matches offset by the disappointing 6-28 defeat by South Sydney at a water-logged Go Media Stadium in their last home appearance on June 30. Across the five games they have scored a total of 166 points while conceding 78.
They lie sixth on 24 points with a 10-7 win-loss record, two points behind the third-placed Sharks, who have had all three of their byes.
When the two sides met in round five on April 2, the One New Zealand Warriors pulled off one the game’s most remarkable comebacks, recovering from a 0-20 deficit to win 32-30.
Less than a month ago the Sharks plummeted to a grim 10-54 loss to Melbourne but they’ve rebounded since with big wins over Canterbury Bankstown (48-10), St George Illawarra (52-16) and the Wests Tigers (36-12) to lead the competition for most points scored with 457.
They enjoy a strong recent record against the One New Zealand Warriors having won 10 of the last 13 matches between the two clubs dating back to 2015.
Sunday’s match is already assured of attracting the fifth consecutive 20,000-plus crowd at Go Media Stadium this season on a day when the One New Zealand Warriors will acknowledge Matariki by wearing their 2023 Indigenous jersey Te Kāhu Kura.
In another feature the club will honour Shaun Johnson, Dylan Walker, Addin Fonua-Blake and Wayde Egan in front of their home crowd after they all achieved major personal milestones last week.