With a place in the top 4 still up for grabs for both sides, this clash between the New Zealand Warriors and Penrith Panthers should have a September feel about it.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
The Warriors have had an inconsistent last month of footy which has been the story of their season after a blistering start. They were beaten by a point last Sunday afternoon by a struggling Canterbury Bulldogs side and will look to improve this week on home soil. They can still make the top 4 and at the same time they can mathematically drop out of the top 8.
Dubbed the comeback kings by many this season after trailing in a plethora of games and crawling back to win, they could not repeat their heroics last week in a disappointing display against the Newcastle Knights. They were previously on a three match winning streak prior to last week and still remain in the hunt for the top 4, but they must keep winning.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Gerard Beale will be missing this week due to a hamstring injury and will be replaced by Peta Hiku who will slot straight into the centres against his former side. Blake Green is missing with a calf complaint, Mason Lino will take his spot in the halves. Tohu Harris makes his return on the bench this week after missing nearly two months of footy.
With James Maloney still out, Tyrone Peachey has moved from fullback to five-eight with Tyrone May dropping to the bench. Trent Merrin has been promoted to a starting role which will spell him more minutes.
This clash is huge in the make-up of the eight, while the top 8 looks set in stone, the finishing positions of each side are still in the air with only four points separating first from eighth.
The Warriors have the worst home record out of the teams currently inside the play-off spots, but they will be hungry and will look to give the Mt Smart faithful something to cheer about as they chase their first finals spot since 2011.
Penrith are one win and one loss since the sacking of Anthony Griffin and have looked a bit shaky under the guidance of interim coach Cameron Ciraldo. Currently sitting in fifth with plenty to play for, the men from the foot of the mountain will look to mount a run for the top four.
With September looming, this clash will ultimately come down to which halves can produce the better football. Penrith are missing James Maloney, while the Warriors are missing Blake Green… the pressure will be on Nathan Cleary and Shaun Johnson as both sides will need these men to step up in the absence of their respectable halves partner.
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. David Fusitua 17. Peta Hiku 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Mason Lino 7. Shaun Johnson 8. James Gavet 9. Issac Luke 10. Agnatius Paasi 11. Isaiah Papalii 12. Adam Blair 13. Simon Mannering. Interchange: 14. Jazz Tevaga 15. Tohu Harris 16. Bunty Afoa 18. Leivaha Pulu
Panthers: 1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Josh Mansour 3. Waqa Blake 4. Dean Whare 5. Christian Crichton 6. Tyrone Peachey 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Trent Merrin 9. Wayde Egan 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Isaah Yeo 13. James Fisher-Harris. Interchange: 14. Tyrone May 15. Moses Leota 16. Corey Harawira-Naera 17. James Tamou
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 24th August
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium
Kick-off: 6pm AEDT
WHO WILL WIN?
This importance of this game for both sides is huge, with a place in the top 8 to consolidate, the Warriors on home soil should be too good for a Penrith side who seem to be struggling under new coach Cameron Ciraldo.
Warriors by 6