Two matches out from the season opener, Warriors coach Ivan Cleary has no clearly defined role for star recruit Feleti Mateo, or at least that’s how he’s letting on. Cleary is a cool customer. He keeps his cards close to his chest. Very rarely does he openly disclose plans. He’s also a conservative. Take last year’s predominant halves pairing, Brett Seymour and James Maloney. They were solid – not spectacular, directing the ship while providing a level of comfort. Maloney was the standout Melbourne Storm rookie; Seymour the Cronulla Sharks, Brisbane Broncos bad boy who was curtailed by injury, during which time Isaac John staked a claim in reviving the 2010 season. Cleary now has options. Mateo is not the sort of player restricted with a positional label. He’s an out of the ordinary product whose ability lies in the back-row and five-eight; threatening the line both in the middle and on the edge. The dilemma has two trials two play out, in Whangarei against Queensland Cup side the Burleigh Bears and the final pre-season clash with Manly in Albany, on consecutive Saturdays. Mateo’s role is likely to dictate the style, shape and make-up of the side. The Warriors want him starting but are unsure if he has the 80-minute fitness endurance. While Mateo exudes many qualities – busting and offloading at, and past, the line – his unpredictable nature will force an adjustment, a positive one once adopted. His appeal as a rangy standoff is tempered by an absence in kicking accuracy, a vital aspect in reducing the workload of the hustlers upfront. Managing Mateo would be easier in the pack, but there is also an abundance of back-row talent. “Early in the season a kicking game is pretty important” Cleary said when quizzed on where Mateo will feature. “We’ll see over the next couple of weeks. The Manly trial will answer a few questions.” After a gruelling pre-season in Auckland’s heat and humidity Cleary was hopeful Mateo’s fitness had improved. “At this stage I’d like to think he’d be starting,” he said. “Whether he can play 80 minutes or not is another question.” Seymour missed last week’s win over the Parramatta Eels through suspension and will not play the Bears, meaning Maloney and Mateo are an intriguing pair. The reliable nugget merges with flair. Props Sam Rapira and Ben Matulino plus centre/hooker Shaun Berrigan are confirmed starters for the Bears, but Cleary also wanted to further explore the fringe players. Meanwhile, in the first NRL hit-out against the Eels at Eden Park, the Warriors will wear a signature black-and-white strip.

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