The New Zealand Warriors have named their side for their season-opener against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Perth on Saturday night. (Photo: warriors.kiwi).
Seven newcomers including debutant Sam Cook have been named for the New Zealand Warriors’ season-opening NRL clash against the South Sydney Rabbitohs at the new Perth Stadium on Saturday (4.00pm kick-off local time; 9.00pm NZT).
The encounter is the first leg of the Perth NRL Double Header which is rounded out by the 2017 premiership-winning Melbourne Storm facing Canterbury-Bankstown (6.05pm kick-off local time; 11.05pm NZT).
The 24-year-old Cook has claimed a spot as the interchange hooker after impressing throughout the preseason and in each of the Warriors’ 20-14 trial wins over the Storm and the Gold Coast Titans.
Set to become Warrior #225, Cook is the only player set to make his first-grade debut this week but centre Peta Hiku (#221), standoff Blake Green (#222), prop Adam Blair (#223) and second rower Tohu Harris (#224) have been named to make their first NRL appearances for the club.
Cook apart, second rower Leivaha Pulu and centre Anthony Gelling are included on the extended eight-man bench along with front rower Agnatius Paasi, who played one NRL game for the Warriors in 2014 before making 54 appearances for the Titans from 2015-2017.
Veteran back rower Simon Mannering misses the opening round with a shoulder injury while new signing Gerard Beale is on track to return from his broken leg in round eight.
Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney said he was especially pleased for Cook, who has come through the club’s system with 10 NYC outings for the Junior Warriors in 2013 and 37 games for the club’s Intrust Super Premiership side to the end of last season.
“I’m pleased with the side we’ve been able to pick and it’s really special being able to name Sam,” he said.
“He’s had a wonderful preseason and he has worked really, really hard for the last 15 or so weeks. He had some nice touches in the trials and gets his opportunity to make his debut.
“Our new players have fitted in wonderfully well, too, and I’m really excited about seeing them play on Saturday afternoon.
“Simon picked up a shoulder injury in our last trial which could keep him out for a few weeks but young Isaiah Papali’i has had a great preseason and he’ll do a good job.”
Ligi Sao claims the No 13 jersey after strong showings in the two trials while James Gavet partners veteran acquisition Blair in the front row.
Halves Shaun Johnson and Green have their first NRL start together as do Hiku and Mate Ma’s wing David Fusitu’a on the right wing.
The match is the 10th the Warriors have played in Western Australia dating back to 1996.