Via Warriors Media
Injury and the unavailability of loan players have forced four line-up changes for the Vodafone Warriors’ 17th-round NRL encounter with third-placed Parramatta at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford on Sunday (4.05pm kick-off local time; 6.05pm NZT).
Impressive rookie second rower Eliesa Katoa is out for at least two weeks with an injury to his left hand which he picked up in his first carry in Saturday’s stunning 36-6 victory over Newcastle at Scully Park in Tamworth.
Parramatta loan players George Jennings and Daniel Alvaro are also out of the side. They haven’t been released by the Eels this week after being in the line-up the past five weeks, a period in which the Vodafone Warriors have beaten the Wests Tigers, Manly, Canterbury Bankstown and Newcastle while losing just 12-18 to competition leader Penrith.
Promoted from the bench to take Katoa’s spot is mid-season signing Jack Murchie, who has been outstanding since returning to the side two weeks ago.
He came off the interchange to score two tries, create another, run 73 metres from seven carries and make 32 tackles with no misses in the 20-14 win over the Bulldogs followed by a 58-minute stint against the Knights when he made 116 metres from 11 runs, had three tackles breaks and made 28 tackles with just one miss.
Called in to replace the in-form Jennings on the wing is ex-Kiwi international Gerard Beale. The 30-year-old will be making his seventh appearance of the season and the 194th of his career in what will be his first outing since playing in the 26-16 win over Brisbane on July 4. Used four times in the centres and twice on the wing so far this year, he has averaged 111 metres a game.
With Alvaro out and Murchie moved into the starting line-up, Isaiah Papali’i returns to the interchange for his 60th match after missing the Newcastle game while Josh Curran, used only once so far this season, is line for his fifth career appearance.
This will be the first time since the round three match against St George Illawarra on May 30 – the opening game of the resumed season – that the Vodafone Warriors haven’t had at least one loan player in their side.
They were able to use a loan player for the first time against Penrith in round four when Sydney Roosters prop Poasa Faamausili made the first of four appearances for the club before being recalled by the Roosters.
Penrith’s Jack Hetherington followed with six games while Jennings and Alvaro – together with Hetherington – gave the Vodafone Warriors three loan players in the same game when they debuted for the club in the win over the Tigers with all three again in the side a week later against Manly.
With Hetherington suspended and Jennings and Alvaro forced out plus Katoa injured, the Vodafone Warriors have been left so stretched for available players that they have been able to name just 20 players this week.
Apart from Wayde Egan, Adam Blair, Papali’i and Curran on the interchange, the three on the extended bench are rookie half Paul Turner (20) and fellow development player Tom Ale (21) plus utility back Adam Keighran, who has seven NRL appearances to his name since his debut last year.
While the Vodafone Warriors come off their best performance of the season – which has lifted them to ninth on the points table – the Eels will be desperate and dangerous after just their fourth and easily the heaviest defeat of the season when they went down 0-38 to South Sydney. They have the benefit of a longer turnaround after playing last Thursday night at home while the Vodafone Warriors travelled to and from Tamworth last Saturday (a 12-hour round trip by the time they arrived back in Terrigal).