New South Wales Cup regulars Kalani Going and Paul Roache will make their NRL debuts in the One New Zealand Warriors’ final regular season encounter with the Dolphins at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane tomorrow (3.00pm kick-off local time; 5.00pm NZT).
Originally named on the extended bench on Tuesday, the pair were promoted to the interchange when the squad was reduced to 19 24 hours ahead of kick-off.
Back rower Going (26) will become Warrior #283 replacing second rower Jackson Ford on the bench; like a number of his teammates, Ford is being rested a week out from the club’s first taste of finals football in five years.
Utility Roache, predominantly used at hooker for the club’s New South Wales Cup side, comes onto the interchange for centre Brayden Wiliame becoming Warrior #284.
The changes mean the One New Zealand Warriors will now have just nine of the players used in last Friday night’s top four-clinching 18-6 win over St George Illawarra – winger Marcelo Montoya, centres Adam Pompey and Rocco Berry, prop Bunty Afoa, hooker Freddy Lussick, back rowers Marata Niukore, Josh Curran and new captain Dylan Walker plus interchange forward Bayley Sironen.
Captain Tohu Harris (back) and standoff Luke Metcalf (hamstring) are injured while those being rested are fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, halfback Shaun Johnson, prop Addin Fonua-Blake, hooker Wayde Egan and Ford.
Back rower Going (26) has been in the extended squad numerous times throughout the season while also featuring in the 19-man game day squad including selection as 18th man for the home game against the Sydney Roosters on April 30.
Roache (24) was included on the extended squad for the first time this week and will now complete the seventh instance of brothers making NRL appearances for the One New Zealand Warriors. His older brother Nathaniel played 26 times for the club from 2016-2019.
Second rower Jacob Laban (19) could also make his debut on Saturday night. Like Roache he hasn’t previously figured in NRL team selections but has been confirmed as 18th man and could make it onto the field if the Warriors have cause to activate the use of their 18th player.
Omitted from the initial 22-man squad are Jackson, Zyon Maiu’u and Ben Farr.
In Harris’ absence, Walker has come into loose forward and will also captain the side for the first time.
Replacing the injured Metcalf in his first NRL match since April 9 is Te Maire Martin, who impressed in his comeback for the club’s New South Wales Cup side in its 42-12 success against the Dragons last Saturday. In his 51 minutes on the field he produced two try assists, a line break, made 61 metres from 10 runs and added 11 tackles without a miss.
Edward Kosi, used on the wing in the first 10 matches of the season, replaces the prolific Watene-Zelezniak on the right wing, Taine Tuaupiki makes his fifth appearance of the year for Nicoll-Klokstad at fullback, Ronald Volkman is in at halfback for Johnson, Mitchell Barnett starts in the front row for Fonua-Blake and Lussick takes over from Egan at hooker.
Tom Ale makes his first-grade return after being used in the first 18 NRL matches of the season; he has been in the New South Wales team for its last five matches where he has averaged 155 metres and 24 tackles a game.
The changes mean Pompey and Montoya will be the only members of the squad to appear in all 24 matches of the regular season, Pompey with the distinction of being on the field for all 1842 minutes of the 23 games to date.
When the One New Zealand Warriors and the Dolphins met for the first time at Go Media Stadium on June 3, the Warriors won 30-8 to start a run which has seen them win 10 of their last 11 matches, Brisbane being the only other club with just one loss during that period (a 9-1 record); and since losing to Penrith in the Magic Round on May 6, they’ve triumphed in 11 of their last 13 games.
They go into Saturday’s contest with the chance of equalling the club record of eight wins on end and 17 victories in the regular season (both achieved in 2002); their tally of 16 wins this year is the outright second best in the club’s history.