BIG KEN, CHT AND PAPALI’I BACK FOR FIRST POST-KEARNEY ASSIGNMENT

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Via Warriors Media

Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu’a are set to be reunited on the wings for the first time this year in the Vodafone Warriors’ seventh-round NRL clash against the Melbourne Storm on Friday night (6.00pm local time; 8.00pm NZT).

When they were last in the same line-up in the opening two rounds of the season in March, Maumalo was in his customary spot on the left wing while Fusitu’a was moved in from the right wing to the centres where he was used numerous times early in his NRL career.

He was back on the right wing for his first outing of the revived NRL season against South Sydney last Friday night, scoring the side’s opening try and his 61st touchdown.

He’ll be there again for his 100th career appearance on Friday night with Maumalo returning for his 91st match after a hamstring injury ruled him out of the last three outings against Penrith, North Queensland and South Sydney.

Fusitu’a will become the 24th player to reach the 100-game mark for the Vodafone Warriors and the first in five years since Shaun Johnson reached his century against the Sydney Roosters in 2015.

The Tonga international is the longest-serving Vodafone Warriors player in this year’s squad, having made his NRL debut against St George Illawarra at Eden Park on March 15, 2014.

While Fusitu’a eyes his 100th game, centre Peta Hiku, halfback Blake Green and prop Agnatius Paasi will all achieve an identical club milestone when they play their 50th match for the Vodafone Warriors.

Aside from Maumalo’s comeback, interim Vodafone Warriors head coach Todd Payten has been forced to make other changes in his first match in charge after taking over from the departed Stephen Kearney.

Rookie second rower Eliesa Katoa (ankle) and hooker Wayde Egan (suspended) are both out resulting in new signing Jack Murchie replacing Katoa for his first start after seven interchange appearances and Karl Lawton is in for Egan at hooker.

Coming onto the bench for his first game since the season resumed is Chanel Harris-Tavita while Isaiah Papali’i is named in #17 after missing the fixtures against the Cowboys and the Rabbitohs.

The encounter has been switched from AAMI Park to Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Sydney following a spike in Covid-19 cases in Melbourne.

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