Second rower Marata Niukore and prop Bunty Afoa are back on deck for the One New Zealand Warriors’ 21st-round NRL match against the Canberra Raiders at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart on Friday night (8.00pm kick-off).
Niukore rejoins Jackson Ford in the second row after missing the last three games through suspension while Afoa is named as a starting prop again in his return from one week off following NRL concussion protocols.
The inclusion of the pair results in Mitchell Barnett and Tom Ale, both starters against the Sharks last Sunday, being moved back to the interchange with second rower Josh Curran and utility forward Bayley Sironen going onto the extended bench.
Ford, having a breakout season, starts for the 17th time this year in what will be the 50th match of his NRL career.
He arrived at the club with 33 games for St George Illawarra Dragons spread over four seasons including just five last year. After being used predominantly as an interchange player by the Dragons, Jackson has been a starting second rower every game he has played this year averaging 105 metres and 35 tackles a game with three tries, six line breaks and 38 tackle breaks and also playing 80 minutes 11 times.
While head coach Andrew Webster has again made changes to the pack, he has an unchanged backline for the fifth match on end.
Match: Warriors v Raiders
Round 21 -
Fullback for Warriors is number 1 Charnze Nicoll-KlokstadFullback for Raiders is number 1 Sebastian Kris
Winger for Warriors is number 2 Dallin Watene-ZelezniakWinger for Raiders is number 2 Albert Hopoate
Centre for Warriors is number 3 Rocco BerryCentre for Raiders is number 3 Jarrod Croker
Centre for Warriors is number 4 Adam PompeyCentre for Raiders is number 4 Matthew Timoko
Winger for Warriors is number 5 Marcelo MontoyaWinger for Raiders is number 5 Jordan Rapana
Five-Eighth for Warriors is number 6 Luke MetcalfFive-Eighth for Raiders is number 6 Jack Wighton
Halfback for Warriors is number 7 Shaun JohnsonHalfback for Raiders is number 7 Jamal Fogarty
Prop for Warriors is number 8 Addin Fonua-BlakeProp for Raiders is number 8 Josh Papali'i
Hooker for Warriors is number 9 Wayde EganHooker for Raiders is number 9 Zac Woolford
Prop for Warriors is number 15 Mitchell BarnettProp for Raiders is number 10 Joseph Tapine
2nd Row for Warriors is number 11 Jackson Ford2nd Row for Raiders is number 11 Hudson Young
2nd Row for Warriors is number 12 Marata Niukore2nd Row for Raiders is number 12 Elliott Whitehead
Lock for Warriors is number 13 Tohu HarrisLock for Raiders is number 13 Corey Horsburgh
Interchange for Warriors is number 10 Bunty AfoaInterchange for Raiders is number 14 Tom Starling
Interchange for Warriors is number 14 Dylan WalkerInterchange for Raiders is number 15 Emre Guler
Interchange for Warriors is number 18 Bayley SironenInterchange for Raiders is number 16 Pasami Saulo
Interchange for Warriors is number 20 Josh CurranInterchange for Raiders is number 17 Ata Mariota
Replacement for Warriors is number 17 Freddy LussickReplacement for Raiders is number 18 Matt Frawley
- Referee: Todd Smith
- Touch Judge: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
- Touch Judge: Drew Oultram
- Senior Review Official: Matt Noyen
Winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak collected another double ln Sunday’s 44-12 trouncing of Cronulla Sutherland to leave him fifth on the competition’s try-scoring list with 15 in 12 games, 13 of them in his last eight appearances.
With 40-plus points scored in their last three wins over St George Illawarra (48-18), Parramatta (46-10) and Cronulla Sutherland (44-12), the One New Zealand Warriors have boosted their points for and against differential to plus 110. After winning five of their first 10 matches, the Warriors have triumphed in five of their last seven.
Their 11-7 record has them in fifth spot on 26 points two behind the fourth-placed Raiders who had their third and final bye last weekend.
The Canberra encounter will be the first of three Friday night fixtures to finish the One New Zealand Warriors’ regular season home campaign with Manly Warringah to follow in round 25 (the Daniel Anderson Round) on August 18 and St George Illawarra in round 26 on August 25.
Tickets are again moving quickly with the sixth consecutive 20,000-plus crowd in store in the club’s best-supported season at home since the debut year in 1995.
The biggest home crowd of the campaign – 24,012 – was in attendance for the Warriors’ stunning win over Cronulla Sutherland last Sunday pushing the aggregate for the six games at Go Media Stadium so far to 132,995 (an average crowd of 22,165 a game).