Veteran fullback Lance Hohaia and skipper Simon Mannering make their first appearances as the Warriors roll out their strongest team, excluding Sam Rapira and Manu Vatuvei, in the fourth and final trial on Saturday. A scan cleared senior prop Rapira of structural damage to his heavily strapped wrist, which he injured while captaining the 30-0 win over Queensland Cup side Burleigh in Whangarei, the club’s third trial success last weekend. “He won’t play this week but he should be fine,” relieved coach Ivan Cleary said of his No.1 front-rower, who missed a large chunk of last season with a busted knee. Strike weapon Vatuvei will likely be preserved from a Manly Sea Eagles battering at North Harbour Stadium after pulling up ‘sore’ at training on Tuesday. That’s handy, as Cleary can test out undecided finishers. Incumbent Kevin Locke, Eels recruit Krisnan Inu and junior star Glen Fisiiahi are locked in a three-way battle for the right wing. “I’d be happy with any one of them. It’s a good position to be in,” the stoic coach said of a dilemma he must solve before March 12, when his side takes on the Parramatta Eels in the Eden Park season-opener. “This week’s important for a couple of positions, certainly the make-up of the bench.” Other headaches for Cleary, who plans to use upwards of 20 players this weekend, are whether Aaron Heremaia or Shaun Berrigan will be preferred at hooker, and who from the trio of Brett Seymour, James Maloney or the excitable Feleti Mateo, can run the ship as crucial halves. One almost certainty is that Joel Moon will play at right right centre berth, Moon appearing to have the position locked down, despite being out of favour last year. “He’s had a very solid pre-season,” Cleary said of the 23-year-old Queenslander. “The first game [against the Newcastle Knights] he was probably close to our best. He’s maturing, I think. It’s another big game for him this weekend. He, like a number of players, feel like they’re better than they were last year.” A poor pre-season strike rate means a goal-kicker has not been selected. “That’s probably a little bit of a concern,” Cleary conceded. “It hasn’t been great so far and it’s something I’d like to nail down. It’s probably going to come down to Maloney, Inu, Seymour, or Locke.” This year’s side boasts superior depth across the park, something Hohaia had noticed when returning to training after a near two-month recovery, for his 10th season. “I’m definitely aware there’s a lot of young talent coming through,” he said. “It’s up to the coaches to decide who plays where and if I’m not doing the job I’ll be replaced. “I can’t remember it being this competitive for spots throughout the team. I’m sure everyone will stand up to the challenge.”

Advertisements