EYES ON THE BALL: New Zealand Warriors number 2, Ken Maumalo is locked in to play on February 26, 2021 at Lismore against the Gold Coast Titans. Maumalo last plated the GCT in July 2020.
EYES ON THE BALL: New Zealand Warriors number 2, Ken Maumalo is locked in to play on February 26, 2021 at Lismore against the Gold Coast Titans. Maumalo last plated the GCT in July 2020.

Magnificent 7: Warriors reveal new signings to play

New Zealand Warriors head coach Nathan Brown has revealed all seven new signings will line up for or the first time in the club's only NRL trial against the Gold Coast Titans at Oakes Oval in Lismore on Saturday.

Brown said four of the newcomers - winger Marcelo Montoya, centre Euan Aitken, prop Addin Fonua-Blake and second rower Bayley Sironen - are all named in the starting combination, while middle forwards Ben Murdoch-Masila and Kane Evans plus half Sean O'Sullivan are listed on the 11-man interchange.

The match is Brown's maiden game for the club as he pits his side for the first of two match-ups against the Titans in the space of two weeks.

The Warriors and the Titans will battle it out for glory again in their opening game of the NRL season at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford on March 13.

While Warriors will be without first-choice second rower Eliesa Katoa, Brown said it's hoped he will recover from a cheekbone injury to be available for the first round.

Also on the bench is experienced winger David Fusitu'a, who is resting a knock but is expected to be ready for round one.

Brown announced a last minute scratching of halfback Chanel Harris-Tavita, after initially being included.

Brown said the number seven was having issues with a quadricep in his left leg and didn't want to risk him.

"We're fielding the strongest side available in what is a vital trial for us," said Brown.

"Missing out on a trial last weekend was disappointing but we will just roll with what we have.

"It's a great opportunity to try our new players, look at combinations and also to bring back a couple of players from long injury lay-offs."

Fonua-Blake and the club's 2020 rookie of the year Jamayne Taunoa-Brown are the starting props with Wayde Egan at hooker, Tohu Harris in the middle in #13 and Sironen paired in the second row with Josh Curran coming in for the injured Katoa.

Players on the bench include props Bunty Afoa and Leeson Ah Mau who make their return. Afoa missed the entire 2020 campaign with an ACL injury while Ah Mau returned home with a pectoral injury when the team was in quarantine ahead of the season resumption in May after the COVID-19 enforced suspension.

He appeared in only the opening two games against Newcastle and Canberra in March.

Meanwhile in a poacher-turned-gamekeeper moment, former Warriors Patrick Herbert, Sam Lisone and Erin Clark have been named in Gold Coast's line-up.

Saturday's trip to Lismore has personal significance for both Brown and assistant coach Craig Hodges, taking them back to familiar surroundings.

Lismore is Hodges' hometown while Brown is from Maclean, around 80km south.

The last time to two teams played at Oakes Oval was a trial game in 2009 and the Warriors gave the Titans a shellacking to win 34-12.

 

Warriors line-up

1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (C)

2 Ken Maumalo

3 Euan Aitken

4 Peta Hiku

14 Marcelo Montoya

6 Kodi Nikorima

7 Sean O'Sullivan

8 Addin Fonua-Blake

9 Wayde Egan

10 Jamayne Taunoa-Brown

21 Josh Curran

12 Bayley Sironen

13 Tohu Harris

Interchange:

5 Adam Pompey 

11 Ben Murdoch-Masila

15 Kane Evans

17 Rocco Berry

18 Paul Turner

23 Hayze Perham

25 Jazz Tevaga

26 Jack Murchie

27 Bunty Afoa

28 Leeson Ah Mau

Head Coach Nathan Brown

NRL Referee: Ben Cummins