The Warriors will be without their longest-serving player for the team’s Round 1 assignment against South Sydney in Perth, with Simon Mannering failing to make the trip to Western Australia on Monday due to a shoulder injury.
Mannering, who has played a club record 280 games for the Warriors, suffered the injury during the trial win over Gold Coast – and some reports are suggesting he could be sidelined for up to a month. It will be just the second time in 12 seasons the Warriors have gone into their season opener without the industrious back-rower.
The setback opens up an opportunity for a fringe candidate to force their way into the squad for Saturday night’s clash, however, with Leivaha Pulu, Agnatius Paasi, Bunty Afoa, Isaiah Papalii and Ligi Sao all fighting for spots in the Warriors’ 17 alongside certain starter Tohu Harris.
Handing front-rowers Adam Blair or Sam Lisone to the No.13 jumper in Mannering’s absence is another option at coach Stephen Kearney’s disposal, which could open up a spot for prop Chris Satae, who impressed in the trials. Blair captained New Zealand from lock during last year’s World Cup, while Lisone has made two starts there over the past two seasons – as has Albert Vete, who is unavailable until Round 2 due to suspension.
Meanwhile, recent recruit Karl Lawton is in line to grab an immediate spot in the Warriors’ first-grade side as the bench utility following Nathaniel Roache’s season-ending injury diagnosis.
Kearney will announce his first squad of 2018 at 5pm Tuesday NZT.
The Warriors’ decision to fly to Perth on Monday appears to mark a change in the club’s travel policy; for standard away games in recent years they have departed no more than two days prior to kick-off, with an extra day allowed for longer-haul trips. A 1-11 record on the road in 2017 may have prompted a change in the club’s thinking.
The Warriors are searching for their first win in Perth in 10 visits.