Via Warriors Media
First-choice players Chanel Harris-Tavita, Addin Fonua-Blake, Matt Lodge and Josh Curran are all back for the Vodafone Warriors’ 21st-round NRL encounter with the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday (3.00pm local time; 5.00pm NZT).
The 22-year-old Harris-Tavita will make just his eighth appearance of the season returning from eight weeks on the sideline after picking up a pectoral injury in the club’s 14th-round encounter with Melbourne on June 13.
Fonua-Blake (finger) and Lodge (suspension) return to bolster the front row after watching the injury-ravaged Vodafone Warriors battle gallantly to hold off the Wests Tigers 18-16 in last Friday’s night’s 20th-round encounter.
And Josh Curran, a late scratching last week, is also back in a pack showing significant modifications from the line-up used against the Tigers.
While those four key players are included there have been further injury setbacks, though, with rookie hooker Taniela Otukolo and prop-second rower Ben Murdoch-Masila both ruled out after last week’s first win in eight games.
Otukolo (19), who was playing just his third NRL game and starting for the first time has a knee injury which is expected to keep him out until round 24 while Murdoch-Masila has a foot injury which may have ended his season.
Among the others players on the injured list are Chad Townsend (shoulder), Wayde Egan (shoulder), Tohu Harris (knee) and Rocco Berry (hamstring).
Harris-Tavita is set for his second comeback from a major injury this season, having spent six games sidelined earlier in the campaign after foot surgery following the second-round loss to Newcastle.
While Fonua-Blake, Lodge and Curran return, the loss of Otukolo and Murdoch-Masila sees a much-changed starting pack. Fonua-Blake and Lodge replace Jamayne Taunoa-Brown and Murdoch-Masila, Jazz Tevaga comes in for Otukolo and Curran is named in the second row with Eliesa Katoa moving to the bench.
With Harris-Tavita back, Peta Hiku, successful in his first outing as captain, is moved into the centres alongside last week’s debutant Viliami Vailea with Adam Pompey shifted to the extended bench.
Regular centre Euan Aitken remains in the second row following a player of the day effort against the Tigers. As well as scoring two tries, he made 163 metres from 18 runs and made 41 tackles.
As well as Aitken, outside backs Marcelo Montoya (195), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (190), Pompey (124) and Reece Walsh (116) all topped 100 metres as did halves Hiku (132) and Sean O’Sullivan (111). The other 100-metre men in the spirited display with Tevaga (121), Afoa (115) and loose forward Bayley Sironen (109).
This week’s contest edges Hiku and winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak within one game of their 150th first-grade appearances.
WARRIORS v CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS
3.00pm, Saturday, August 7, 2021
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
1 REECE WALSH
2 DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK
3 PETA HIKU
4 VILIAMI VAILEA
5 MARCELO MONTOYA
6 CHANEL HARRIS-TAVITA
7 SEAN O’SULLIVAN
8 ADDIN FONUA-BLAKE (c)
9 JAZZ TEVAGA
10 MATT LODGE
11 EUAN AITKEN
12 JOSH CURRAN
13 BAYLEY SIRONEN
14 KODI NIKORIMA
15 BUNTY AFOA
16 KANE EVANS
17 ELIESA KATOA
18 JAMAYNE TAUNOA-BROWN
20 EDWARD KOSI
21 JACK MURCHIE
22 ADAM POMPEY
HEAD COACH | NATHAN BROWN