Seasoned Simon Mannering, Jacob Lillyman and Issac Luke have all been named for the New Zealand Warriors’ second and final NRL trial – the ‘Summer Smash’ – against the Gold Coast Titans at the Central Energy Trust Arena in Palmerston North on Sunday (2.00pm kick-off).
The three players weren’t used in either the NRL Auckland Nines or last Saturday’s first preseason hit-out against the Melbourne Storm on the Sunshine Coast.
Boasting almost 700 NRL appearances between them they will provide a significant boost to the starting pack this weekend.
The 286-game Ryan Hoffman was the only vastly experienced forward fielded against the Storm; he was among six players taken off at halftime when the Warriors led 18-6 before going on to lose 18-30.
Lillyman and Luke start alongside prop Sam Lisone, who played in the Nines and also represented the club in the NRL All Stars in Newcastle last Friday night. Hoffman and Bunty Afoa are again the starting second rowers with Mannering at loose forward.
The only change to the backline used against the Storm is at standoff where Ata Hingano is paired with halfback Shaun Johnson. Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has his second run after a successful return in the first half last week.
“It’s a real boost for us to be able to have those experienced lads in the forwards,” said Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney.
“We know the Titans will bring plenty in what is a vital hit-out for us ahead of the season.
“There were some really good signs against Melbourne but we need to show further improvement this Sunday.”
The bench includes Albert Vete, James Gavet, Wellingtonian Charlie Gubb and Blake Ayshford
The last time the Warriors played a match in Manawatu was a trial against Central Districts at Palmerston North Showgrounds on the original Auckland Warriors’ national tour before their debut in the competition in 1995.
The Vodafone Warriors’ advance party arrives in the city tomorrow for a schedule of NRL Community Carnival appearances and activities on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
There’ll be a signing session at Harvey Norman’s store in 339 Main Street West in Palmerston North at 5.30pm tomorrow.
The Warriors, who arrive in Palmerston North on Friday, will hold an open training session at Central Energy Trust Arena at 11.00am on Saturday. It’s followed by a signing session at the Keen Kiwi Rugby League Festival at 1.00pm.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS v GOLD COAST TITANS
Central Energy Trust Arena, Palmerston North
2.00pm, Sunday, February 19, 2017
Warriors: 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2 Tuimoala Lolohea, 3 David Fusitua, 4 Solomone Kata, 5 Ken Maumalo, 6 Ata Hingano, 7 Shaun Johnson, 8 Sam Lisone, 26 Issac Luke, 16 Jacob Lillyman, 15 Bunty Afoa, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 13 Simon Mannering, 32 Albert Vete, 22 James Gavet, 11 Blake Ayshford, 17 Junior Pauga, 18 James Bell, 20 Charlie Gubb, 28 Mason Lino, 21 Isaiah Papalii, 25 Erin Clark
(Main photo: Sam Lisone. Credit: photosport.nz).