Warriors fans will get their first look at new recruits Peta Hiku, Agnatius Paasi, Leivaha Pulu, Anthony Gelling (pictured) and Matiu Love-Henry when a relatively low-key squad takes on the Melbourne Storm in a Rotorua-hosted trial on Saturday.
Notable absentees from the 23-man group are big-name buys Tohu Harris, Adam Blair and Blake Green, as well as Round 1 certainties Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Johnson, Issac Luke and Simon Mannering.
Coach Stephen Kearney will be keeping a close eye on the performances of three-quarters Solomone Kata, Blake Ayshford, Ken Maumalo, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Gelling, who are effectively competing for two spots in the Warriors’ backline with David Fusitu’a and Hiku virtually guaranteed a starting jersey.
The absence of Johnson and Green gives Ata Hingano and Mason Lino – who has been handed the captaincy for this game – a chance to impress in the halves, as well as outstanding playmaking prospect Chanel Harris-Tavita, the linchpin of last year’s NYC squad. Fellow 18-year-old Hayze Perham is another young gun to watch out for.
With prop and back-row places at a premium ahead of the Warriors’ season-opening encounter with South Sydney on March 10, the likes of Sam Lisone, Albert Vete, Isaiah Papalii and Ligi Sao will be eager to shine against a second-string Storm outfit, with their top-liners taking on Leeds Rhinos in the World Club Challenge on Friday night.
WARRIORS v MELBOURNE STORM
Rotorua International Stadium
3.00pm, Saturday, February 17