Kiwi centre Gerard Beale is set for his first game of the season and the equally experienced Blake Ayshford also makes his comeback when the Vodafone Warriors face Western Suburbs in their 10th-round Intrust Super Premiership clash at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday (2.45pm kick-off).
Beale (27), a 163-game NRL veteran, has been named to make his return from a long injury lay-off after breaking his leg in the Kiwis’ opening match of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup against Toa Samoa at Mount Smart Stadium on November 28.
More than six months later he will line up on the same ground to play his first match in Vodafone Warriors colours.
With ex-Wigan centre Anthony Gelling partnering Beale in the centres, the 30-year-old Ayshford is included on the bench for Saturday’s match.
With 167 NRL games to his name, Ayshford’s 2018 campaign has been hampered by a back complaint which has limited him to just two ISP outings this year after clocking up 43 NRL matches in his first two seasons with the Vodafone Warriors. His last game was the 23-22 win over Wyong on March 31.
With the club’s centres all fit for the first time this season, there isn’t room for them all to start (Peta Hiku and Solomone Kata are named again for the NRL side), leaving Ayshford on the ISP interchange.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) May 9, 2018
Also named this week is Sam Cook, listed at hooker after being with the NRL squad last week.
The Vodafone Warriors had their winning streak halted at three when they fell 26-30 to the competition-leading Mounties last week after they had led 20-12 at halftime.
The result left them with a 5-4 record, sitting in sixth place on 10 points. The Western Suburbs Magpies are also on 10 points but are fourth on points for and against. They’re coming off heavy losses to St George Illawarra (12-42) and Wentworthville (6-26) and have won just one of their last four matches since swamping the Vodafone Warriors 32-0 in round five.