Veteran Māori players Isaac Luke and Adam Blair have been recalled to the Warriors 17 for this weekend’s Indigenous Round clash against the Brisbane Broncos.
Blair missed the Dragons game two weeks ago through suspension and the Panthers game last weekend after Stephen Kearney left him out of the 17.
The Ngāpuhi forward has been named on the bench in what will be his 298th career game. He replaces Bunty Afoa who has been named to start in place of the suspended Agnatius Paasi.
Luke has been named to wear to the number 9 jersey for the first time since the side’s loss to Newcastle earlier this month. He started against Penrith Panthers on Friday night when Nathaniel Roache was ruled out with injury.
Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck says it’s been a tough couple of weeks for the two senior players but adds that their experience has helped them force their way back.
“It’s tough sending guys who’ve played nearly 300 games experience to go back [to reserve grade], they’re professionals, they get on with the job.”
Luke’s return in the 30-10 win over the Panthers has earned him his recall, according to Tuivasa-Sheck.
“He’s been fighting to get back in the team, he got a shot last week and I thought he was awesome and that’s what we’ve got to give him. We’ve got to bring it each week.”
The rest of the squad remains unchanged from the team which beat the Panthers, with six Māori players named in the 17, with another two on the extended bench.
Ngāi Tahu and Ngā Rauru halfback Kodi Nikorima will make a start in his first match against his former club.
His halves partner Blake Green is expecting Nikorima to receive a fair bit of attention from his former team mates, “but he’s really experienced, he’s played test matches, played in some hard matches for the Broncos. He’ll know how to handle the occasion,” says Green.
With the club celebrating their 25th season, and this week's clash against the Broncos being their 42nd against their very first opposition, original captain Dean Bell (Te Arawa) will once again lead the club into battle when he walks out ahead of the Warriors to present the Broncos with a gift as part of the Indigenous Round festivities.
The Warriors will also wear a unique jersey recognising the Indigenous Round, the designs on which will symbolise Ranginui and Papatuanuku, as well as the North and South Islands of Aotearoa.
The jersey will also carry the number 52 on it in a tribute to former Kiwis captain Quentin Pongia, who played for the club in 1998. Pongia passed away last Saturday after a battle with cancer and will be farewelled at Greymouth High School at midday this Saturday.
In another recognition of the NRL’s Indigenous Round, Mt Smart Stadium will be renamed Rarotonga for the night, an acknowledgment of the original name of the mountain.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v BRISBANE BRONCOS
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)
2 DAVID FUSITU’A
3 PETA HIKU (Ngāriki Kaiputahi)
4 PATRICK HERBERT (Ngāi Tūhoe)
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 KODI NIKORIMA (Ngāi Tahu Nga Rāuru)
7 BLAKE GREEN
8 BUNTY AFOA
9 ISSAC LUKE (Ngā Ruahine Rangi, Te Āti Awa)
10 LEESON AH MAU
11 ISAIAH PAPALI’I
12 TOHU HARRIS (Ngāti Kahungunu)
13 LACHLAN BURR
14 JAZZ TEVAGA
15 ADAM BLAIR (Ngā Puhi)
16 LIGI SAO
17 KARL LAWTON
18 GERARD BEALE (Ngāti Mutunga)
20 LEIVAHA PULU (Ngā Mahanga, Ngāti Rārua Ātiawa)
21 CHRIS SATAE
22 CHANEL HARRIS-TAVITA
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY (Te Āti Awa)