Via Warriors Media
Two frontline players have returned but two are out and captain Addin Fonua-Blake is also in doubt for the Vodafone Warriors’ fifth-round NRL contest with North Queensland at Moreton Daily Stadium in Redcliffe on Friday (6.00pm kick-off local time; 8.00pm NZT).
Interchange prop Aaron Pene (shoulder) and back rower Bayley Sironen (Covid) have come straight back into the line-up after missing last Saturday’s 20-6 win over Brisbane.
Their returns are offset by utility forward Jazz Tevaga being suspended for two matches on a dangerous contact charge and interchange forward Ben Murdoch-Masila sidelined with an leg injury he picked up just 18 minutes into his return last week.
On top of that Fonua-Blake has been listed on the expanded bench after picking up a knock against Brisbane. He has to get through training this week if he is to play.
While Pene and Sironen make quick returns, first-choice centre Rocco Berry is also back in the mix after sitting out last week with a virus and fellow young centre Viliami Vailea is on the expanded bench having recovered from the knee injury which sidelined him after the first-round defeat by St George Illawarra.
Sironen, who was on the bench in the first three rounds, comes into the second row with Josh Curran switched back to loose forward.
For the first time this season, Brown has been able to select the same spine for a second week running with Wayde Egan at hooker, Shaun Johnson and Chanel Harris-Tavita in the halves and Reece Walsh at fullback.
Until now Egan had been the only constant in the opening four rounds.
In round one Johnson was with Kodi Nikorima in the halves with Harris-Tavita at fullback while a week later Walsh came in at fullback with Harris-Tavita going to the halves alongside new signing Ash Taylor.
There was another shuffle for the round three contest when Taylor (hip) was ruled out and Nikorima was back in the halves.
It meant Brown was unable to field his preferred spine until last week when Johnson came back from injury.
Last week Matt Lodge, Jesse Arthars, Nikorima and Walsh all lined up against their former club Brisbane; this week the Vodafone Warriors will face three former players in centre Peta Hiku, halfback Chad Townsend and prop Jamayne Taunoa-Brown who were all teammates last season.
Friday night’s second consecutive home game at Moreton Daily Stadium offers up another all-Queensland clash, the third in the opening five rounds for the Redcliffe-based Vodafone Warriors after facing Gold Coast in round two and Brisbane last week.
WARRIORS v NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Moreton Daily Stadium, Brisbane
6.00pm, Friday, April 8
1 REECE WALSH
2 EDWARD KOSI
3 JESSE ARTHARS
4 ADAM POMPEY
5 MARCELO MONTOYA
6 CHANEL HARRIS-TAVITA
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 BUNTY AFOA
9 WAYDE EGAN (C)
10 MATT LODGE
11 EUAN AITKEN
12 BAYLEY SIRONEN
13 JOSH CURRAN
14 KODI NIKORIMA
15 ELIESA KATOA
16 AARON PENE
17 JACK MURCHIE
18 TANIELA OTUKOLO
20 ADDIN FONUA-BLAKE
21 ROCCO BERRY
22 PRIDE PETTERSON-ROBATI
23 JUNIOR RATUVA
24 VILIAMI VAILEA
25 OTUKINEKINA KEPU
Head coach | Nathan BROWN