Via Warriors Media
Kodi Nikorima returns to the halves replacing injured new signing Ash Taylor for the Vodafone Warriors’ third-round NRL clash against the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Sports Stadium in Sydney on Friday night (6.00pm kick-off local time; 8.00pm NZT).
After making his Vodafone Warriors debut against his old club Gold Coast last week, Taylor has been ruled out as he struggles to recover from a hip complaint on the short turnaround between games.
With senior halfback Shaun Johnson (pectoral) also side-lined, head coach Nathan Brown has been forced to name his third different halves pairing in as many games for this Multicultural Round encounter .
The Vodafone Warriors lose a combined 323 games in NRL experience with Johnson and Taylor on the injury list but Brown is able to call on another veteran in Nikorima, who boasts 141 NRL appearances.
Chanel Harris-Tavita and Nikorima were last paired as the club’s starting halves in the Vodafone Warriors’ 14th-round loss to Melbourne in June last year.
In the opening round, Brown had Johnson and Nikorima as the starting halves with Taylor and Harris-Tavita teaming up in last Saturday’s heart-breaking 18-20 loss to the Titans.
Apart from the enforced change at halfback, Brown has named the same 17 used against Gold Coast.
In both games so far this season, the Vodafone Warriors have faced early deficits, falling 0-12 behind after just 14 minutes against the Dragons followed by a mirror image against the Titans when they trailed by the same score inside 14 minutes again.
Both times they rallied, edging 16-14 ahead of St George Illawarra just after halftime and going to the break 18-16 in front of Gold Coast only to concede their leads each time.
The Vodafone Warriors welcomed back rookie fullback Reece Walsh and hard-nosed prop Matt Lodge last week but Lodge’s involved was limited to just 20 minutes before he was forced off with severe illness and was unable to return.
With the interchange bench reduced to three players for three quarters of the game, seven forwards delivered 100 metres-plus efforts – captain Addin Fonua-Blake (186 metres from 14 runs), Josh Curran (152 from 16), Bunty Afoa (145 from 14), Euan Aitken (121 from 15), Eliesa Katoa (120 from 12), Jazz Tevaga (113 from11) and Aaron Pene (112 from nine).
Curran backed up his man of the match performance against the Dragons by complementing his run metres with a game-high 44 tackles.
Little separates the Vodafone Warriors and the Tigers so far this season or through the years. They both have 0-2 starts to the season, the Tigers following up a 16-26 loss to Melbourne with a 4-26 reverse against Newcastle last Sunday.
Overall the Vodafone Warriors are just ahead 17-16 in the 33 encounters between the two sides since 2000. They’ve won four of the last five meetings but the Wests Tigers have won the last five match-ups played at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
WARRIORS v WESTS TIGERS
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Sydney
8.00pm NZT, Friday, March 25
1 REECE WALSH
2 ADAM POMPEY
3 JESSE ARTHARS
4 ROCCO BERRY
5 MARCELO MONTOYA
6 CHANEL HARRIS-TAVITA
7 KODI NIKORIMA
8 ADDIN FONUA-BLAKE (c)
9 WAYDE EGAN
10 MATT LODGE
11 EUAN AITKEN
12 ELIESA KATOA
13 JOSH CURRAN
14 JAZZ TEVAGA
15 BUNTY AFOA
16 AARON PENE
17 BAYLEY SIRONEN
18 JACK MURCHIE
20 BEN MURDOCH-MASILA
21 TANIELA OTUKOLO
22 PRIDE PETTERSON-ROBATI
23 VALINGI KEPU
24 JUNIOR RATUVA
25 EDWARD KOSI
Head coach | NATHAN BROWN