Friday’s demoralising 26-0 loss to Penrith has not prompted a change of tack from Warriors coach Stephen Kearney, who has made just one change to his 17 for this week’s must-win showdown with North Queensland in Gosford.
Lachlan Burr – missing from the two matches since the restart due to the head knock – has been restored to the front-row, where he produced a modest return in Rounds 1 and 2. The big surprise, however, is that perpetual coach’s pet Isaiah Papali’i is the player to miss out, relegated to the extended bench in jersey 21.
The only time in the Warriors’ past 41 games Papali’i was absent was in Round 1 last year, when he was stood down for a week after being caught drink driving.
Burr’s return sees Adam Blair, outstanding at prop a fortnight ago in the win over St George Illawarra, move to lock. How that reshuffle will work given named second-rower Tohu Harris has been playing as middle forward for the past two games – and has been the Warriors’ best on each occasion – with Papali’i on the edge remains to be seen.
Peta Hiku, who missed the Panthers loss with a rib injury, and Agnatius Paasi, who sat out Round 4 through suspension, have both been named in the four-man reserves contingent, alongside Papali’i and Chanel Harris-Tavita. Star outside-backs Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu’a remain unavailable.
Encouragingly for the Warriors, Cowboys champion Jason Taumalolo has been named on the extended bench rather than the starting pack as the Dally M Medal leader races the clock to return from injury. Ben Hampton and Jake Granville have been dropped, while John Asiata is out injured.
Warriors v North Queensland Cowboys at Central Coast Stadium (8pm – NZT)
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. Patrick Herbert 3. Hayze Perham 4. Gerard Beale 5. Adam Pompey 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Blake Green 8. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 9. Wayde Egan 10. Lachlan Burr 11. Eliesa Katoa 12. Tohu Harris 13. Adam Blair 14. Karl Lawton 15. Poasa Faamausili 16. King Vuniyayawa 17. Jack Murchie 18. Agnatius Paasi 20. Peta Hiku 21. Isaiah Papali’i 22. Chanel Harris-Tavita
Cowboys: 1. Valentine Holmes 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Esan Marsters 5. Hamiso Tabuai-fidow 6. Scott Drinkwater 7. Jake Clifford 8. Francis Molo 9. Reece Robson 10. Jordan McLean 11. Mitchell Dunn 12. Coen Hess 13. Josh Mcguire 14. Reuben Cotter 15. Tom Gilbert 16. Shane Wright 17. Gavin Cooper 18. Corey Jensen 19. Peter Hola 20. Jason Taumalolo 21. Tom Opacic