Harris-Tavita named to start, Nikorima on the bench in Warriors opener

By James Perry

Stephen Kearney has named his team to take on the Newcastle Knights in round 1 of the NRL this weekend.

Young half Chanel Harris-Tavita appears to have won the battle for the number 6 jersey ahead of Kodi Nikorima.  This was after after being named to partner Blake Green in the run-on squad for the season opener at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.

Nikorima will take his place on the interchange, alongside backup hooker Karl Lawton and two debutants, Jamayne Taunoa-Brown and Eliesa Katoa. 

Taunoa-Brown and Katoa earn their spots on the bench after a number of serious injuries all but depleted the Warriors front-row stocks during the preseason. 

It caps a meteoric rise for the 23-year-old Taunoa-Brown, where he has gone from an on-trial contract to a full two-year contract less than a month ago after playing for the Indigenous All-Stars side against the Māori All-Stars. 

Peta Hiku returns from off-season shoulder surgery to take his place in the centres. 

Also returning from injury is Tohu Harris, named to play his first game since June 2019. The backrower will take his place on the right flank with David Fusitu's confirmed to make the switch from the wing to the centres.

Meanwhile, captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has been named to start at fullback despite taking a knock in their 20-6 loss to the Wests Tigers two Saturdays ago.

New signing Wayde Egan wins the vacant hookers jersey ahead of Lawton, after Isaac Luke joined the St George Dragons after last season.

Fijian-born forward King Vuniyayawa, who turns 25 on Friday is also a chance of making his NRL debut named on the extended bench.

The NRL season gets underway on Thursday night when the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs face the Paramatta Eels, while the Warriors first game is on Saturday night. 

The Warriors have somewhat become accustomed to opening the season against the Knights, having done so 3 times in the last six seasons. 

The team to play the Newcastle Knights is:

1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c)

2 Patrick Herbert

3 David Fusitu'a

4 Peta Hiku

5 Ken Maumalo

6 Chanel Harris-Tavita

7 Blake Green

8 Leeson Ah Mau

9 Wayde Egan

10 Lachlan Burr

11 Adam Blair

12 Tohu Harris

13 Isaiah Papali'i

Interchange:

14 Kodi Nikorima

15 Jamayne Taunoa-Brown

16 Eliesa Katoa

17 Karl Lawton

18 King Vuniyayawa

20 Hayze Perham

21 Leivaha Pulu

22 Taane Milne